What is Oregon known for?
Oregon is known for its scenic landscapes, lush green forests, and stunning coastline. Oregon is famous for its rivers, mountains, and national parks, such as Crater Lake. The state is also known for its rich history of the American frontier, and for holding unique world records.
Few places show the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest as well as Oregon. Whether you like getting out in nature or merely observing it from the comfort of the great indoors, Oregon is hard to beat.
In this article, we will set out to explore the many beauties of Oregon, as well as some of its truly unique attractions. It’s not every state that has both the smallest park in the world and the largest living thing within its boundaries.
- 23 Things Oregon is Known For
- 1. Crater Lake National Park
- 2. The Oregon Coast
- 3. Cannon Beach
- 4. Mount Hood
- 5. Hood River, Oregon
- 6. Columbia River Gorge
- 7. Hells Canyon
- 8. The Lewis and Clark Expedition
- 9. The Oregon Trail
- 10. Smith Rock State Park
- 11. The Beaver State
- 12. Nike Headquarters
- 13. Portland
- 14. The World’s Smallest Park
- 15. The World’s Largest Living Organism
- 16. Malheur National Forest
- 17. Tillamook Creamery
- 18. Willamette Valley
- 19. Multnomah Falls
- 20. Silver Falls State Park
- 21. The New England Connection
- 22. Oregon Shakespeare Festival
- 23. Ghost Towns
- FAQs About Famous Oregon Things
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23 Things Oregon is Known For
1. Crater Lake National Park
Oregon’s most iconic natural wonder, without a doubt, is Crater Lake. An ancient volcano erupted, leaving a deep crater, which then filled with water, forming the lake. With a depth of 1,949’ Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. It’s kind of ironic, too, because the elevation of the lake (6,178’) puts the bottom of the lake at a higher elevation than some mountains!
One of the most notable features of the lake is Wizard Island, standing out from the shore of the crater. Hiking trails lead all around the rim of the crater, and even down to the shores of the lake.
2. The Oregon Coast
Oregon is famous for its rocky coastline on the Pacific Coast. One finds cliffs looming out of the sea punctuated by scenic beaches. The town of North Bend is home to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, a popular tourist attraction. Highway 101 makes for a scenic drive along the coast, especially toward sunset.
❓ Trivia Time: What state has the most shoreline?
3. Cannon Beach
One of the most visited attractions on the Oregon Coast is Cannon Beach. Haystack Rock towers above the sands of the beach and is well known by nature lovers as a haven for tufted puffins. Many people consider it to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Although residents of other states may contest that title though, especially a state such as Hawaii, which is famous for its beaches.
4. Mount Hood
The highest Mountain in Oregon, Mt. Hood towers 11,249’ above sea level. The mountain and the area around it have been designated as a national park and are highly popular with tourists. Further up the slopes, one can visit several different ski resorts as well as wander along a number of hiking trails.
5. Hood River, Oregon
This city takes its name from the nearby tributary river flowing into the Columbia River. Agriculture, particularly fruit, and viticulture have blossomed here, while the town’s historic logging industry has dwindled. Tourism also forms a major part of the local economy. Hood River serves as a hub for exploring Mount Hood, and kitesurfers and windsurfers flock to this town to enjoy world-class windsurfing on the Columbia River.
6. Columbia River Gorge
Oregon is famous for its rivers as well as its stunning coastline and massive mountains. One of the most famous is the Columbia River, which forms the border between northern Oregon and southern Washington. Scientists believe an ancient cataclysmic flow of water cut the gorge out of the rock.
7. Hells Canyon
Another famous canyon in Oregon is Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in America. Carved over time by basalt lava flows and the flowing of the Snake River, the deepest part of the canyon is over a mile deep on the Oregon side. The deepest point, nearly 8000’ lies just across the border in Idaho, which is also known for this remarkable gorge.
8. The Lewis and Clark Expedition
America’s most famous explorers passed through both of these canyons on their westward quest toward the Pacific Ocean. A number of monuments dedicated to this duo stand throughout the state and a wildlife refuge near the mouth of the Columbia River bears their name. The National Park Service has provided information for those wishing to retrace this legendary expedition.
9. The Oregon Trail
Along with Lewis and Clark’s travels, the most famous expedition in Oregon’s history is the saga of the Oregon Trail. Fur trappers were the first Americans to venture out after Lewis and Clark’s voyage, and word of Oregon’s rich natural wealth soon spurred further emigration. In all, around 400,000 people took this trail, some stopping or branching off along the way, others continuing on to Oregon.
10. Smith Rock State Park
To call Oregon a nature lover’s paradise only says the half of it. The cliffs and rock formations in this park just north of Bend (nothing to do with North Bend) is a favorite of rock climbers. For those less inclined to extreme sports, the park has plenty of scenic hiking trails
11. The Beaver State
During Oregon’s frontier years, fur trapping formed a major part of the local economy, with beaver pelts being one of the most lucrative items. While the fur trade has since ended, these industrious rodents have since been adopted as the official state animal.
❗ Fun Fact: The Oregon state flag is the only state flag that is double-sided. The state seal is on the front side, while a beaver is on the back.
12. Nike Headquarters
Situated in the city of Beaverton, the company that we all know today as Nike began production under a different name–Blue Ribbon Sports. The brand changed its name in 1971, so most people probably haven’t heard of the name change. A recent collection of Nike running wear, however, bore the name “Blue Ribbon Sports” as a nod to the original company name.
Beaverton today seems more like a suburb of this city, the largest in Oregon. The nearby headquarters of Nike doubtlessly proved helpful for Portland’s NBA team, the Portland Trail Blazers, often referred to simply as the Blazers. However, there’s far more to Portland than sports and shoes.
Few other cities are so famous (or perhaps infamous) for their super-hip West Coast vibe as Portland. Portland residents embraced the ambiguous attention, going so far as to coin the (unofficial) motto: “Keep Portland Weird.” Portland’s gleeful eccentricity became the subject of the satirical comedy Portlandia, which took a tongue-in-cheek look at the pretensions of the local hipsters.
Aside from the havens of hipsterdom, there are plenty of interesting attractions in Portland.
For one, Washington Park offers locals and visitors a variety of attractions. A variety of wildlife resides at the Oregon Zoo, and the International Rose Test Garden offers a dazzling bouquet of roses from around the world. In fact, roses are sent to this park in order to “test” them in qualities such as disease resistance, color, fragrance, and more.
14. The World’s Smallest Park
Downtown Portland’s Mill Ends Park occupies all of 452 square inches at the end of a traffic median. A sign and a tree denote the presence of the park, which would likely be overlooked otherwise.
The park began as a hole intended for a light post. The post never arrived, and a local journalist whose office faced the site of the future park got creative. He planted flowers in the empty space and began writing columns about the various passers-by and their doings. The column, and the park, gained enough attention that on St. Patrick’s Day in 1948, the city officially created Mill Ends Park.
15. The World’s Largest Living Organism
What’s the largest living thing in the world? A blue whale? A California redwood tree? A fungus? Believe it or not, the last of those three is the correct answer. A vast, interconnected network of fungus in eastern Oregon steals this title away from more auspicious candidates. The fungus spans more than 2200 acres, hiding its true size beneath the earth of the Malheur National Forest.
16. Malheur National Forest
Exploring this national forest, one could easily forget about the giant subterranean fungus amidst the many breathtaking views. Mountains, lakes, and even arid grasslands abound throughout the area of the park. To the south, a national wildlife refuge houses more familiar forms of life such as mule deer, coyotes, jackrabbits, and more.
17. Tillamook Creamery
Any American who likes ice cream, cheese, or anything dairy knows about Tillamook. Their huge factory near Cannon Beach may not actually be the largest cheese factory in the world, but it seems like it’s not too far off the mark. Visitors can partake of the company’s trademark ice cream, cheese, and other products at the visitor center. Nearly a million tourists visit the factory each year. Who could blame them?
18. Willamette Valley
This scenic valley stretches from the greater Portland area 150 miles south to the town of Eugene. The fertile soil provides an excellent habitat for grapevines to grow, and the Willamette Valley has long been the premier wine region of Oregon. In fact, two-thirds of Oregon’s wineries are located here. Neighboring California may be well-known for its wines, but Oregon has steadily been gaining more recognition for its wines in recent years.
19. Multnomah Falls
Another famous site in Oregon is Multnomah Falls. At 620’, Multnomah is the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon. A bridge spanning the lower tier of the falls enables visitors to see the falls up close, as does an observation deck at the very top of the falls. Overnight stays can be booked at the nearby lodge, and many hours can be blissfully passed wandering the many hiking trails in the area.
20. Silver Falls State Park
Many people regard this park near Salem, Oregon as the most beautiful of Oregon’s state parks, and it’s easy to see why. Waterfalls abound here, with one trail boasting ten different cataracts along its course.
Surrounded by lofty evergreen trees, the misty falls seem like something from a fairy-tale forest. Four of the park’s falls have paths leading behind them, enabling visitors to look out through the shimmering curtains of water on their tranquil surroundings.
21. The New England Connection
Observers will note the conspicuous similarity between many place names in Oregon and New England. Both Oregon and Massachusetts have cities called Salem. Oregon and Maine both have Portland. Oregon and New Hampshire have a Coos County. How did this come about?
In short, during the frontier years, many settlers came from New England. Anyone who has been to both places will note the similarities, as did the founders of these towns and counties. Portland in particular has an amusing anecdote about how it got its name. The founders of the town hailed from Portland and Boston and when it came to naming their new settlement, it literally came down to a coin toss.
❓ Trivia Time: What states make up New England?
22. Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Portland may be the mecca of all things new and cutting-edge, but Oregon plays a role in the world of the classics as well. Every year in the town of Ashland in southern Oregon the immoral works of The Bard are brought to life. Since beginning in 1935, the festival has included plays by other authors as well.
👉 Read Next: The 50 States and What They Are Known For
23. Ghost Towns
While America’s Southwestern states usually steal the spotlight when it comes to the wild west, Oregon also has its share in that chapter of American history. Ghost towns across the state stand as silent reminders of days gone by. Oregon actually has the most ghost towns of any US state! 256 of these lonesome spectacles dot the landscape across Oregon.
👉 Read Next: What is Montana Known For?
FAQs About Famous Oregon Things
How did Oregon get its name?
Various theories exist, but recent research concluded that “Oregon” may derive from an Algonquian word meaning “the beautiful.”
What are some weird laws in Oregon?
It is illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon. Recent legislation in the past few years allowed some exceptions, but the ban remains in effect throughout much of the state.
As you can see, Oregon is a breathtakingly beautiful state. There’s plenty to see and do in between outdoor expeditions as well. If you’re curious to learn about another great Pacific Northwest state, check out our article on what Washington is known for!