Many people’s first introduction to Oregon facts was from playing the Oregon Trail game as kids.
Unlike Louis and Clark, most who played the game ended up dead (factiously speaking, of course).
But there are many more fun facts about Oregon beyond pioneer days and being the state caught between Hollywood and Seattle.
I’ve compiled a list of interesting facts about Oregon, including misguided dynamite, car-destroying slime, and eyebrow-raising politics.
Sure, you can read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild or watch Portlandia, Grimm, and The Goonies to learn about this eclectic state. But why let your Oregon fun facts stop there?
29 Oregon Facts: Fun Facts About Oregon You Should Know
1. Enjoy Oregon’s Publicly Owned Beaches
One of the most fun facts about Oregon is that its beaches are publicly owned.
The Oregon Beach Bill in 1967 fixed a loophole in an older law, ensuring the valuable land could never end up in private hands.
Instead, the sand, sea, and rocks up to sixteen feet above the low tide mark will always be accessible to the public.
2. Oregon Has Volcanoes
Washington’s Mt St Helens is the Pacific Northwest’s most famous volcano, which erupted in 1980.
But the Cascades, which St Helens is a part of, runs through Oregon into Northern California, and many have a history of volcanic activity.
Geologists performed a volcanic threat assessment in 2018, giving a “very high threat” warning to Oregon’s Crater Lake, Mt Hood, Three Sisters, and Newberry.
3. Portland Is The Whitest American City
Portland, Oregon, has had the dubious honor of being the whitest city in America for longer than the state would like to admit.
The bleached-colored Oregon facts catch some people by surprise since it was never a slave state.
But the ban on slavery was for economic reasons, not progressive politics. Oregon’s white settlers believed slaves gave wealthy farmers an unfair advantage.
So to even the farming field, so to speak, they banned African Americans in a series of exclusionary laws.
4. Crater Lake: Deepest Lake In The USA
Interesting facts about Oregon include being home to Crater Lake, which is 1,943 feet deep. It is the deepest lake in the USA and ranked 9th globally.
The gorgeous caldera resulted from Mount Mazama’s collapse when the volcano erupted an estimated 7,000 years ago.
5. Oregon Made Hagfish Famous
Oregon fun facts include the hagfish, also known as the slime eel.
Not many people were aware of this unique creature until July 14, 2017, when Oregon’s Highway 101 experienced a multiple-car pileup after 7,500 pounds of slime eels were unleashed from their thirteen containers.
The events inspired the hilarious (yet helpful) article Your Car Has Just Been Crushed By Hagfish, which quickly went viral.
6. Oregon’s Pump Ban Was From 1951-2023
One of the odder Oregon facts was that it was illegal to pump your own gas for 72 years.
The ban was (partially) lifted in August 2023, leaving New Jersey as the only US state where an attendant must “fill ‘er up.”
Read next: 26 Fun Facts About Idaho To Read Now
7. Visit Oregon’s Exploding Whale Memorial Park
Oregon is home to the Exploding Whale Memorial Park. The park was christened in 2020 to mark the 50th anniversary of blowing up a 45-foot deceased sperm whale with 20 cases of dynamite in Florence, Oregon.
The idea was that seagulls could dispose of the smelly carcass if the whale was transformed into tiny pieces.
Instead, it resulted in massive chunks, one of which flew a quarter of a mile and crushed a car.
In addition to the park, the anniversary was celebrated by digitally remastering the original live recording of the event.
8. Oregon Is Cheesy
Wisconsin isn’t the only cheesy state. Oregon has a long history of making the dairy delight and boasts many local creameries.
The Goliath in the state is Tillamook, which has bought out many cheese factories, including the historical Bandon Cheese Factory.
But the small town has refused to let its cheese tradition die and is now home to the Face Rock Creamery.
9. Oregonians Tried To Make The State Of Jefferson
Overlooked Oregon facts include that not everyone in the state wants to be connected to the Portland metropolitan area, which is home to half the state’s population.
In 1941, folks in Southern Oregon, fed up with “city dwellers” bossing them around, joined forces with people in Northern California, who had similar frustrations.
Thus, they declared themselves the State of Jefferson.
The seceded status lasted for three days, ending after folks were distracted by an event known as Pearl Harbor. However, the idea of forming the State of Jefferson continues to this day.
10. Cranberry Queens Are Crowned In Oregon
Every year, Oregon crowns a cranberry queen as part of a small-town Oregon cranberry festival.
Cranberries make a significant contribution to Southern Oregon agriculture.
The climate causes the berries grown in this region to have an incredibly rich color, making their crops highly prized despite not being the biggest producers in the country.
11. Prefontaine Helped Make Nike Famous
He grew up in Coos Bay, Oregon, and his old high school training route is now an annual race.
Runners can also participate in the Pre Classic, established by the University of Oregon, where Prefontaine enrolled so he could train under Bill Bowerman.
His coach was co-founder of Blue Ribbons Sports, which now operates under the name of Nike.
12. Oregon Has A Large Timber Industry
No list of Oregon facts would be complete without mentioning their timber industry.
The state is the largest softwood producer in the country. The bulk of the lumber is from Douglas Fir, Oregon’s state tree.
But the Douglas Fir is far from the only tree to be found in their forestlands, which cover 30.5 million of the state’s 63 million acres.
Oregon has 64 official native tree species, including Pacific Dogwood, Oregon Ash, Ponderosa Pine, Western Red Cedar, Sitka Spruce, Bigleaf Maple, Red Alder, and the Oregon-Myrtle.
13. Oregon Is Home To Whorehouse Meadow
Once upon a time, there was a secluded meadow in the Steens Mountains where women would set up canvas tents and offer personal service. Thus, the area was named Whorehouse Meadow.
But in 1968, the Bureau of Land Management released maps calling it “Naughty Girl Meadow,” overlooking one of the most well-known Oregon facts that folks in this state do not like being told what to do.
Thus, Oregonians took the case to the US federal board and had the rightful name restored in 1976.
14. Hells Canyon Is Deep
Hells Canyon, which forms part of the Oregon and Idaho border, is home to the deepest canyon in North America. The canyon is 8,043 feet deep.
The Snake River that cuts through the canyon is the Columbia River’s largest tributary.
It originates in Wyoming, crosses Idaho, and runs along the Oregon border before entering Washington, eventually meeting the Columbia.
15. No Sales Tax In Oregon
In Oregon, the price on the sticker is the price you pay. The state doesn’t have sales tax.
16. North Bend Once Used Wooden Money
Myrtlewood money is a unique quirk of the Great Depression. A small Southern Oregon town called North Bend (located nowhere near the famous Bend, Oregon) faced the closure of its only bank and no way for the residents to access their money.
So, to keep commerce flowing, the town made its own money out of Myrtlewood, a local hardwood flourishing in the region.
17. Oregon Arrested A Romanian Princess
Oregon facts include the arrest of a Romanian princess in 2013.
Irina Walker, one of former Romanian king Michael I’s daughters, was running a cockfighting ring with her husband, John Walker.
Arming birds with tiny knives and having them fight is a Class C felony in Oregon.
18. Scenic Bikeways Started In Oregon
As of 2023, Oregon has 17 routes as part of its Oregon Scenic Bikeways program. It began in 2009 and was the first of its kind in the nation. The routes vary in length and difficulty.
For example, the Old West Scenic Bikeway is rated “challenging” and is 174 miles, whereas the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway is rated “mild” and only 36 miles long.
19. Oregon Was First To Decriminalize Cannabis
Oregon facts are full of weed. For instance, in 1973, Oregon decriminalized cannabis. It was the first state to do so, and the phrase should not be confused with “legal.”
Laws didn’t further relax until 1998, when voters approved marijuana for medical use.
But it wasn’t until 2014 that Oregon voters ticked “yes” to make it legal. The law went into effect in July 2015.
20. Oregon Has A Two-Sided Flag
Oregon is the only state in the country with a two-sided flag.
The navy blue and gold design features the state seal on one side and a beaver (the state animal) on the other.
21. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Made Headlines
But the 187,757 acres usually are peaceful, home to over 340 bird species, nearly 60 types of mammals, and the western United States’ most extensive freshwater marsh ecosystem.
22. Death With Dignity Started In Oregon
Oregon facts are full of firsts, including being the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide.
The Death With Dignity Act was enacted in 1997, and as of 2020, those with less than 15 days left to live no longer have to abide by the waiting period.
23. Oregon: Home To The Largest Organism On Earth
Oregon is home to the planet’s largest living organism: Armillaria ostoyae, commonly known as honey mushrooms.
Oregon hasn’t always been the fungus record holder, as large ones had been identified in other areas, such as Canada, Washington, and Colorado.
But in 2003, Catherine Parks published a paper on one in Eastern Oregon that spanned 2,384 acres. It is estimated to be somewhere between 2,400 and 8,650 years old.
24. Portland Has The Most Strip Clubs
Portland is full of unique Oregon facts, including having more strip clubs per capita than any other US city.
There is one for every 11,826 residents. Not everyone is a fan. But the clubs are protected after the Oregon Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that all-nude stripping fell under the First Amendment.
The case known as State vs. Henry began when Earl A. Henry, owner of an adult book store, was convicted in 1982 for being in possession of “obscene material.”
Attorneys for the Civil Liberties Union took up his appeal, and they won with a 7-to-0 decision.
25. Earthquakes Happen In Oregon
California isn’t the only state on the West Coast that worries about earthquakes; Oregon and Washington get them, too.
Admittedly, none have created memories like the Great San Francisco quake of 1906. But scientists claim that’s just because the Northwest is long overdue “The Big One.”
26. Oregon’s Pinball Wars Involved The Mob & Teamsters
Oregon facts include a dubious relationship with gambling and the mob.
In 1949, fed up with corruption and murder, Portland voted in its first woman mayor, Dorothy Lee, who promptly banned gambling.
The ban included pinball, which she saw as a “gateway” to the vice.
Lee’s ban didn’t just upset the mob but also the Teamsters, who had a union branch for pinball and coin machine operators. Thus, The Pinball Wars began.
27. Oregon Has Hurricane Force Winds
The saving grace is that these high winds don’t typically blow in a circular pattern.
But on Columbus Day, 1962, Typhoon Freda hit. Locals called it the “Big Blow,” the wind was estimated to reach 170 miles per hour at Cape Blanco, and on Portland’s Morrison Bridge, it reached 116. The storm killed at least fifty people.
28. See The Marble Halls Of Oregon
A fun Oregonian fact is that the famed “Marble Halls of Oregon” is not found in a government building or a rich person’s home.
Instead, they are the Oregon Caves, located in southern Oregon’s Siskiyou Mountains. There are approximately 15,000 feet of passages mapped out.
29. Oregon Has Eleven Lighthouses
Tourists always want facts on Oregon lighthouses. As of 2023, there were eleven. The newest, Pelican Bay, was lit in 1999 and is one of two privately owned.
The oldest continually operating light beams out of the Cape Blanco lighthouse. It is the most westerly stationed lighthouse, from the highest focal plane (256 feet), and was home to the first woman lighthouse keeper, Mabel E. Bretherton, back in 1903.
The first time was in 1994 after two teenage boys snuck into the lighthouse and smashed the bull’s eyes and six prisms.
The second time was in 2002, as the caulking between the prisms was deteriorating. However, the lens is now back in place for visitors to admire.
Quick Fun Facts About Oregon
Portland is the largest city in Oregon, with a population of over 600,000.
Mount Hood is the highest peak in Oregon (11,239 feet).
Some of Oregon’s most famous locations are Crater Lake National Park, Mount Hood, Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Cannon Beach, Willamette Valley, Fort Clatsop, Oregon Caves National Monument, Klamath Mountains, and Willamette National Forest.
Oregon City was the first state’s capital.
The first Europeans to visit Oregon were Spanish explorers led by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who sighted southern Oregon off the Pacific coast in 1543.
That concludes our post for today! I hope you enjoyed exploring these fascinating details about Oregon. Remember to spread the word about this article on your social media. Also, if you’re aware of any other intriguing facts about Oregon, feel free to share them in the comments. I’m eager to hear from you!