How did Oregon get its name? Who lived in Oregon first? These and other questions are answered in our Oregon unit study supplement!

While the origin of the word “Oregon” is unknown, its nickname of the Beaver State reflects the valuable fur trade that brought early settlers to the region.

In this article you’ll learn more interesting facts about Oregon, including historical facts about Oregon, an Oregon history timeline, geography facts and more. Time4Learning members can download our list of PreK-12 interactive activities that align with your study of Oregon.  Here are some Oregon facts for kids:

Oregon Fast Facts

Became a State:

February 14, 1859

Order it Joined the Union:

33rd state

State Capital:

Salem

State Abbreviation:

OR

Border States:

State Flag:

Flag of Oregon

State Song:

“Oregon, My Oregon”

State Flower:

Oregon Grape

State Nickname:

  • The Beaver State

Notable Oregonians:

  • Ann Curry, journalist
  • Beverly Cleary, author
  • Douglas Engelbart, inventor
  • Linus Pauling, Nobel prize winner
  • Matt Groening, Simpsons cartoonist
  • Mark Hatfield, senator
  • Raymond Carver, writer/poet

Historical Facts About Oregon

Can you believe that people lived in Oregon more than 15,000 years ago? When Europeans first arrived in the 1500s, they discovered over a hundred Native American tribes, such as the Chinook, Nez Percé, Paiute, Shasta, and Tillamook.  Both Great Britain and Spain claimed the region at first. Then the Louisiana Purchase brought US exploration out west with the journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

Although Oregon was not part of the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark extended their exploration to include parts of Oregon.  Settlers began to arrive in larger numbers in the 1840s through the Oregon Trail, a wagon trail route that was more than 2,000 miles long.

Oregon’s historic and current focus on logging and use of natural resources for hydroelectric power, mining, and agricultural has created a need to balance development with conservation. In 1971, the Oregon Forest Practices Act, the first of its kind in the US, required the protection of natural resources during logging. That same year, the state was the first in the US to pass a bottle-deposit law.

In 1973, a program was established that mandated land and resource development and conservation, and in 1983, a law was passed that established a comprehensive recycling plan. Oregon’s livelihood continues to depend on its ability to balance the use and preservation of its natural resources even today.

Now read the Oregon history timeline below to find out some more interesting historical facts about Oregon.

1579

Sir Francis Drake, Spanish explorer, when searching for riches and the Northwest Passage, claimed part of the Pacific coast for Queen Elizabeth I

1778

English sea captain, James Cook, visited Oregon in order to trade

1787

Boston ships led by Captain Robert Gray and John Kendrick came to Oregon

1792

Captain Robert Gray discovered the Columbia River and named it for his ship, the Columbia

1805

Region acquired by the Louisiana Purchase was explored by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, as directed by President Thomas Jefferson, with exploration as far west as Oregon

1811

First permanent settlement was founded at Fort Astoria by John Jacob Astor, head of the Pacific Fur Company

1818

US and Great Britain agreed to share occupancy of the region

1843

Many settlers began to arrive via the Oregon Trail; representatives met to organize a government with laws based on those adopted by Iowa

1846

Oregon became a US territory

1851

Salem became the capital of Oregon Territory

1853

Territory north of the Columbia River became Washington Territory

1855

Capital of Oregon Territory was moved briefly to Corvallis and then returned to Salem

1857

State constitution was adopted; Salem was incorporated as a city and became the official state capital

1859

Oregon became the 33rd state in the US, under President James Buchanan

1923

Oregon became one of the first state to impose a state income tax to raise money for state government

1964

Nike Corporation was founded in Eugene

Bring history and geography to life with Time4Learning’s interactive online social studies curriculum for grades 2-12.

Oregon Geography Facts

Now that you’ve learned some interesting facts about Oregon’s history, let’s turn to the diverse geographical features of the state.  One fun fact is that central Oregon contains an area called “moon country,” lava fields that were the site of astronaut training for the 1960s US space program.

The forests of Oregon, covering more than 40% of the state, contain mostly Douglas fir (state tree), as well as red alder, bigleaf maple, ponderosa pine, and hemlock.  Did you know that in Siskiyou National Forest, you can find the only Big Foot trap in the world?

Plenty of wildlife can also be found in Oregon.  Among the mammals are the American beaver (state animal), Roosevelt elk, deer, antelope, fox, bear, wolverines, and gray wolves.  In the air, you will see osprey, sage grouse, snowy plovers, and burrowing owls. Closer to the ground, you may find alligator lizards, western pond turtles, Pacific giant salamanders, spotted frogs, and coastal tailed frogs.  Also, along Oregon’s coast, you may be able to spot its year-round inhabitants, the Steller sea lions.

To start getting familiar with the state, check out this map of Oregon. Then read through the following Oregon geography facts, print out the map of Oregon provided below, and add these items to the map.

  • Oregon is bordered by Washington in the north, California and Nevada in the south, the Pacific Ocean in the west, and Idaho in the east.
  • The capital, Salem, lies in the northwest corner of the state.
  • The Columbia River forms the northern border with Washington.
  • The Snake River forms the northern part of the border with Idaho.
  • Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the US at 1,943 feet, and Crater Lake National Park are in the southwestern corner of the state.
  • Upper Klamath Lake is south of Crater Lake, near the city of Klamath Falls.
  • Summer Lake and Lake Albert are north of Goose Lake, still in south-central Oregon.
  • Harney Lake and Malheur Lake are both found in the south-central corner of the state just south of Burns.
  • Goose Lake is on the southern border, crossing from south-central Oregon into Nevada.
  • Oregon’s highest point is Mt. Hood, at 11,239 feet above sea level, in north-central Oregon.

Oregon State Map

Download our FREE Oregon state map printable. Use it as a coloring page or use it to plot the state’s geographical features.

Download

Activities for Children in Oregon

Keep learning fun facts about Oregon by visiting the Beaver State to see some of its unique places. Homeschoolers in Oregon and out-of-state homeschoolers have a lot of choices. Here are a few ideas to help you learn some Oregon state facts:

  • Crater Lake National Park (Crater Lake):  Observe the stunning blue lake situated in the beautiful Cascade Mountains and created 7,700 years ago.  The lake’s waters are fed by rain and snow, making the lake one of the purest bodies of water on earth. Enjoy the 30 overlooks of the 33-mile rim drive, hike the 90 miles of trails, and explore the two visitor centers. Take a guided boat or trolley tour or join a ranger program (or Junior Ranger program for kids).  Prepare for your trip using the park’s student study guide or other curriculum materials.
  • High Desert Museum (Bend):  Experience the living plants and animals on exhibit from the arid region of the northwestern US.  Learn about the High Desert’s places and people on the 135-acre campus. Visit a homestead ranch, otter exhibit, birds of prey center, sawmill, ranger station, and changing forest exhibit.  Explore interpretative paths and the surrounding forest. Sign up for an art workshop, lecture, or other special event.
  • Oregon Coast Aquarium (Newport):  Learn about the region’s marine ecology through exhibits, animal experiences, and tours.  See harbor seals and sea lions, and experience the sandy shore, rocky shore, coastal water, and open sea habitats.  Dive with sharks and fish or check in from afar with the shark, seabird, and otter cams. Watch for homeschool events, such as Home School Family Sleepovers, and access the free teacher resources to enjoy some distance learning at home.  Get free admission on your birthday!
  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (Portland):  Take a day to wonder about science, technology, and design through 200 interactive exhibits and activities.  Explore the planetarium, three auditoriums, large-screen theater, and exhibits. See a decommissioned US Navy submarine, experience a motion simulator, or participate in maker workshops.  Kids under aged 6 can play in the Science Playground. Young scientists, aged 4-8, can play with wind power and make music. Everyone can enjoy the six labs, experience an earthquake, and try designing in the innovation stations.  Watch for special events and programs.
  • Oregon Zoo (Portland):  Enjoy the exhibits featuring the African rainforest and savanna and the Serengeti.  Observe Asian elephants, black bears, cougars, penguins, red apes, and polar bears in their habitats.  Learn about local flora and fauna in the Cascade Crest and Condors of the Columbia exhibits. And so much more!  Check the website for detailed information about its animals and watch for Community Free Days and discounted rates on select Twilight Tuesdays.

Looking for more things to do with your kids in Oregon? Check out this post full of field trip ideas in Oregon!

Oregon Freebies and Deals for Homeschoolers

How can you learn Oregon facts and information without spending a bunch of money?  Below are just a few ideas:

  • Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (Hood River):  See where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountains.  View Washington to the north and Oregon’s many waterfalls, including the 620-foot-high Multnomah Falls, and mountains to the south.  Come to one of the visitor centers or interpretive centers to learn about the surroundings. A small vehicle pass gets the family in to enjoy the day.  Fourth graders and their families are admitted for free through the “Every Kid a Park” program.
  • The Glass Forge Gallery and Studio (Grants Pass):  See handcrafted glass art on display in the gallery or for sale.  Take a tour or register to make your own ornament (for a cost). Watch glassblowing live on the webcam.  If you can visit, admission is free.
  • Mount Hood National Forest (Sandy):  Visit one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations to see the views and its Timberline Lodge.  Hike, ski, boat, raft, climb, fish, or horseback ride. A small day pass for your vehicle gives you and your family access to the Columbia River Gorge, and sixty miles of forested mountains, streams, and lakes, as well as the Olallie Scenic Area consisting of a high lake basin under Mt. Jefferson.
  • Portland Children’s Museum (Portland):  Be creative in the Building Bridgetown construction zone, Maker Studio, Theater, or Clay Studio. Pretend to be a construction foreman, a market owner, or a veterinarian.  Play with shadows in a forest by campfire light, and learn about gravity, cause and effect, currents, and gardening. Admission is free on the first Friday of every month.
  • Powell’s City of Books (Portland):  Visit the largest independent bookstore in the US.  Browse through collections of regional books, including a kids’ section called Little Locals.  Check the calendar for author visits, book clubs, story hours, writing groups, and other events.  Just don’t buy anything if you want to make this visit free!

Oregon Learning Games for Children

Now that you know some interesting things about Oregon, see how many Oregon facts for students you have mastered with these free games and activities:

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