It is always good to set the stage with a few facts so that is what this post is intended to do. Oregon was admitted to the union as the 33rd state on February 14, 1859. Though the number and boundaries of its counties have changed over time, there were 36 counties with approximately the current boundaries established by 1916. Here is a link to a website showing the historical boundary changes of Oregon counties: http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/pages/records/local/county/about/maps/index.html.
And here is a map of Oregon counties and their county seats (thanks to the office of the Secretary of State):
In 1860 the official population count was 52,465. By 1900 the population had grown to 413,536. In 1940 when my father’s family moved to Oregon from Idaho the population had reached 1,089,684. When my parents were married in 1950 the state had a population of 1,521,341. When I was five years old in 1960 the count was 1,768,687. By the time I had finished school and moved away in 1980 the population had reached 2,633,156. The official count in 2010 was 3,831,074. I cite all these figures for two reasons. First to give myself some perspective on how the population has changed over my lifetime and second, to show that while, indeed the population has more than doubled since I was young, that kind of growth is normal for the state. In its first 50 years the population grew 10 fold, in the next 50 years it more than doubled and in the past 50 years it has more than doubled again.
Here is a map showing population density based on 2010 population to give you a feel for just where all those people live:
The state is roughly 400 miles wide and 360 miles tall for a total land area of 98,381 square miles. Plenty of room for a 21st century explorer to roam around. The highest point in the state is Mount Hood at 11,249 ft (3,428.8 m). The low points can be found at sea level all along the Oregon Coast.
State stuff is always fun but mostly designated at the whim of state legislatures so not to be taken too seriously, some of the more recent ones particularly make me laugh. I mean, seriously, how did a state with a burgeoning wine industry and a history of really great beers end up with milk as a state beverage? But for the record here is a list of state stuff including the year of its designation:
Flower: Oregon grape (1899)
Tree: douglas fir (1939)
Animal: beaver (1969)
Bird: western meadowlark (1927)
Fish: chinook salmon (1961)
Rock: thunderegg (1965)
Colors: navy blue and gold (1959)
Song: “Oregon, My Oregon” (1927)
Insect: swallowtail butterfly (1979)
Dance: square dance (1977)
Nut: hazelnut (1989)
Gemstone: sunstone (1987)
Seashell: Oregon hairy triton (1991)
Beverage: milk (1997)
Mushroom: Pacific golden chanterelle (1999)
And on that note I think it is time to close out this first post. This is going to be fun. I hope you will join me in rediscovering Oregon.