Looking for the most interesting facts about Oregon? I have you covered.
I’m a lifelong local that spent my fair share of time learning about the state I call home. I’m endlessly fascinated by the terrain, local food and culture so I finally took it upon myself to roundup some of the most interesting Oregon facts.
You may be acquainted with some of the facts below, but I’m sure some will surprise you. I’m not one for small talk, so let’s cover some cool facts about Oregon!
Interesting Facts About Oregon
#1. Mt. Hood is the third most climbed mountain in the world
Reaching an impressive height of 11,250 feet, Mt. Hood is the tallest volcano in Oregon and the fourth tallest in the Cascade Range.
But fret not, the volcano is dormant and doesn’t pose a threat (or so they say…). What’s more, Mt. Hood is home to America’s only year-round ski resort (open all 12 months of the year).
The mountain draws enthusiasts in hordes, but don’t just take my word for it — Mt. Hood is the third most climbed mountain in the world. How’s that for cool facts about Oregon?
As you can imagine, every inch of Mt. Hood National Forest is bound to impress but make an effort to visit McNeil Point, Paradise Parks and Elk Meadows to see why Oregonians find this area one of the most beautiful in Oregon.
Further Reading: 10 Enchanting Oregon Lavender Farms Worth the Drive
#2. Oregon is home to the largest organism on earth
Located in the Malheur National Forest and weighing an estimated 7,500 tons and covering 4 square miles, the honey mushroom (Armillaria ostoyae) is known as the largest organism on earth.
Some consider this one of the most interesting facts about Oregon, others want to debate (Pando, a clonal colony of the quaking aspen trees in Utah was long-considered the largest organism on earth). But this 2022 article finally put the debate to rest.
#3. Portland is home to the second largest copper statue in America
Sitting pretty at nearly 35 feet, the Portlandia Statue is the second largest copper statue in America — second only to the Statue of Liberty in New York City.
The City of Portland commissioned a sculptor named Raymond Kaskey to create the sculpture after the figure on the Portland seal (fun fact, he modeled the statue’s face after his wife).
You might ask yourself why such an iconic statue is not better known. Well, the sculptor guards the rights to the statue strictly and doesn’t allow photos of it to be used for commercial purposes, and threatens lawsuits when his request is not met.
However, the statue may look familiar to Portlandia fans because the show received permission to use the statue after hefty negotiations and an agreement not to use it in a “disparaging way.”
Alas this hidden gem of a statue is one of the most interesting facts about Oregon, but few know it.
#4. Oregon (actually) has an official state nut
Now, you may be wondering to yourself “why is this an unusual fact about Oregon?” Well, we’re the only state with an official nut. Not only that, but Oregon grows 99% of the country’s commercial crop.
Our hazelnuts (also known as filberts) are some of the most sought after in the world. Don’t believe me? See for yourself, I dare you.
#5. Oregon is home to the deepest canyon in North America
Most folks assume that the Grand Canyon (Arizona) is the deepest canyon in the country. And while the impressiveness of the Grand Canyon is not up for debate, the honor of the deepest canyon belongs to our state.
Found on the border between Oregon and Idaho, the Snake River cuts through Hells Canyon and offers visitors ample outdoor recreational opportunities in the deepest canyon in North America. At an impressive 7,913 feet deep, Hells Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon by almost 2,000 feet!
#6. Powell’s Books is the largest independent bookstore in the world
We can’t talk about the coolest facts about Oregon without mentioning our pride and joy — Powell’s Books. Located in the trendy Pearl District and spanning a full city block, Powell’s Books is the largest independent bookstore in the entire world.
The local bookstore houses approximately one million books and spans 4 floors. Portland’s reputation for rain and gloomy weather is not exaggerated, this spot swells with locals and tourist alike rain or shine, but especially rain.
The reason? This is one of the best indoor activities in Portland on a rainy day.
Pop into the Gold Room to see the rarest and most expensive books at this incredible book shop.
Fun fact: The most expensive book at Powell’s is an 1814 copy of the Lewis & Clark Journal which includes Captain Lewis’ map safely tucked between the pages. The price? $350,000.
#7. Oregon’s beaches can’t be private
Oregon is one of two coastal states (Hawaii is the other) to protect beach access to the public. The first big act to keep beaches public was passed in 1913 by Governor Oswald West to declared Oregon’s coast a public highway.
Things were running smoothly until 1966 when a hotelier on Cannon Beach attempted to section off a portion of the sand and claiming it as private property for his hotel guests.
No dice, said our adored Governor, Tom McCall, who made an entire affair out of proving to everyone that the state’s beaches would be open to all. Harnessing the power of the media, McCall took two helicopters to the coast to make a point that the beaches were being threatened by enterprise.
The media ate it up. Just one of the many reasons Tom McCall is so revered by Oregonians to this day. If you’re new to the coast, I suggest reading about the 15 most charming towns at the Oregon Coast.
#8. Portland has the most breweries of any US city
Of all the things Portland is known for, perhaps the most notable is Portland’s beer scene. In fact, Portland is often rated as the best beer city in America.
Yep. As such, no list of facts about Oregon would be complete without mentioning that Portland has more breweries than any other city in the country.
There’s no denying that Portland has clearly become the epicenter of a booming craft brew community. Home to nearly 70 breweries, one thing is certain – there’s no shortage of great breweries in Portland to choose from.
Further Reading: 15 Epic Portland Breweries Guaranteed to Clench Your Thirst
#9. Oregon is the 4th-most wine producing state
By this point you probably understand that Oregonians will never go thirsty. We’re spoiled for choice in the state and the breathtaking wine regions are no exception.
Everyone knows that Oregon is an outdoor enthusiasts dream. The drastic (and diverse) natural landscapes can keep anyone entertained for years with miles of hiking trails and sweeping vistas.
But what’s the point in hiking without a proper reward afterwards? Well, Oregon has you covered in that department as well — in fact, with more than 750 wineries in state, Oregon is the 4th most wine producing state in the country.
And of all the notable wine regions in Oregon, perhaps none is more famous than Willamette Valley because it is home to 500+ wineries.
Sitting at the same latitude as France’s notable wine regions, Willamette Valley is known for producing knock-out award-winning Pinot noirs that can hold their own in worldwide competitions.
You may enjoy reading: The 10 Most Beautiful Wineries in the Willamette Valley
#10. Hood to Coast is the longest (and largest) relay race in the world
Anyone workout nuts out there? If so, this Oregon fact is for you.
Did you know that Oregon’s annual Hood to Coast relay is the the longest and largest relay races in the world? The beloved relay starts at the base of Mount Hood (Timberline Lodge) and ends in Seaside, Oregon.
Founded by ultra-marathoner Bob Foote in 1982, the event combines two beloved Oregon locales (Mount Hood and the breathtaking coast). Spanning 199 miles, this is not for the faint of heart! The route starts at Timberline Lodge and heads south towards Seaside, past the city of Portland.
For the past 26 years, the event sold on on opening day (allowing 18,000 runners/walkers to participate). Needless to say, this is a beloved Oregon tradition indeed.
#11. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the country
Crater Lake formed thousands of years ago when Mount Mazama, a massive volcano, erupted and collapsed. The caldera filled with rainwater and snow melt, which eventually formed the lake we see today.
Clocking in at a depth of 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America and the ninth deepest lake in the world.
In fact, Crater Lake is deeper than the One World Trade Center in New York City is tall (by a whopping 200 feet!). That definitely puts the depth into perspective for me!
If that’s not impressive enough, Crater lake is also one of the purest and clearest lakes in the world because there’s no inlets, meaning there’s no sediment or mineral deposits being introduced to the lake.
#12. There’s no state sales tax in Oregon
Ask any shopaholic about their favorite Oregon state facts and this one is bound to come up. Oregon is one of X states that doesn’t charge a sales tax, which is why so many tourists make luxury purchases while visiting.
#13. The creator of the Simpsons hails from Portland
Few people know that the creator of The Simpsons, Matt Groening, grew up in Portland, Oregon. Which is why this is one of my favorite Oregon facts to share with out-of-town visitors.
As such, you may notice that a lot of the streets in NW Portland seem familiar. The reason? A handful of Simpsons characters are named after Portland streets!
So if you’re looking for unique things to do in Portland, why not go on a self-guided tour and search for all the streets that the Simpsons characters are named after?
Further Reading: The Simpsons & the City of Portland
#14. The state flag is (very) unique
Here’s one of my favorite facts about Oregon: we’re the only state that has two different designs on each side of the flag. One side boasts the state seal while the other is reserved for a gold beaver.
The reason for the beaver? The beaver is Oregon’s state animal.
All other state flags have the same design front and back. Guess this Oregon fact is on brand with our commitment to uniqueness.
#15. There’s an extinct volcano within Portland’s city limits
Portland is one of four American cities to have an extinct volcano within city limits. The culprit? Mount Tabor.
But since Mt. Tabor is considered a dormant volcano it’s not expected to erupt. And you know one of the biggest perks of having an extinct volcano within city limits? The views!
Mt. Tabor Park has one of the best views of Portland, which makes this some-what frightening fact about Oregon a little less daunting.
P.S. If you’re interested, the other three cities in the United States that have extinct volcanoes are Bend, Oregon, Jackson, Mississippi and Honolulu.
Further Reading: 10 EPIC Portland Viewpoints
Uncommon Oregon Facts
#16. Tater tots were invented in Oregon
If you’ve been alive for longer than five years then tater tots need no introduction. But here’s one of the most interesting facts about Oregon — the tater tot was created in our backyard!
Yep, the invention is tied to two brothers (Nephi and Golden Grigg) who sought to expand their frozen corn business to the potato market. One fateful day in 1949 in the small town of Ontario, Oregon the brothers created the tater tot and the rest is history.
More fun facts about Oregon food: The corn dog was invented at the Oregon coast! Right along Highway 101 in Rockaway Beach, you can’t miss the original hotdog stand even if you tried.
#17. We have a World Champion Cheese on our hands
This is one of the coolest facts about Oregon for foodies — an Oregon cheese won the world’s best cheese award in 2019/2020.
That’s right, a panel of 250 of the world’s more renowned cheese connoisseurs chose the epic Rogue River Blue as Grand Champion at the 2019/20 World Cheese Awards in Bergamo, Italy.
Marking the first time ever an American cheese was named best in the world.
Getting your hands on some of this cheese will require a miracle (it’s always sold out). I tried some shortly after the award, but haven’t been able to get my hands on it since. It was phenomenal and I’d go out of my way to get my grubby little hands on more.
#18. Oregon is the 9th largest state in the union
You know how some folks say “bigger isn’t always better?” well, that doesn’t always apply! Bordered by Washington (to the north), California (to the south), Nevada (southeast) and Idaho (east) Oregon is the 9th largest state in the union.
The best part? Our neighbor to the west is the formidable Pacific Ocean. The Oregon coastline spans an impressive 362 miles, every inch open to the public — which is a natural transition to one of the best facts about Oregon.
#19. It was the first state to ban non-reusable bottles
Here’s one of my favorite environmental facts about Oregon.
According to a 2019 report released by WalletHub, Portland is the 9th greenest city in America. How was this determined? The survey collected data from the 100 largest cities in America and used 28 key indicators of environmental friendliness and sustainability.
So is anyone surprised to learn that Oregon was officially the first state to ban non-returnable bottles and cans? That’s right, in 1971 Oregon took center stage with its commitment to reduce littering and waste! A mission successfully accomplished, I might add, as roadside waste was reduced significantly since the passing of the bill.
#20. Portland is the most bike-friendly city in the US
With more than 350+ miles of bike lanes, Portland is considered the most bike-friendly city in the country. Facts about Oregon’s outdoor lifestyle are easy to come by because locals love the outdoors (and take advantage of the epic scenery the state offers).
Portland is not exception. Year after year, the City of Roses clocks in as one of the best cities for cyclists due to extensive biking trails and advanced bike infrastructure.
I can tell you from first hand experience that biking around Portland is enjoyable, safe and a great way to explore the town (this is coming from someone that scares easily!).
In fact, biking is so popular in Portland that on average 5.3% of residents commute to work by bike, far exceeding the national average of .5%.
#21. The Columbia Gorge was the first scenic highway in the US
Few know that the Columbia River Gorge is America’s largest National Scenic Area. And once you drive through this stunning landscape it won’t take long for you to realize that the honor is well deserved. I’m a sucker for the Gorge, which is why I consider this one of the best Oregon facts to share with newcomers.
Take the Historic Columbia River Highway, known as the “King of Roads,” which was the first scenic highway in America to be designated as a National Historic Landmark, an incredible achievement.
The Highway was constructed with the intent of working with the natural wonders of this area, not against them and the end result is a beautiful thing.
The highway hugs the Columbia River and passes numerous cascading waterfalls. Make sure you pop off to see Multnomah Falls otherwise no one will believe you were actually here!
I should also confess that the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge is one of my favorite day trips from Portland, because there’s no shortage of adventurous things to do.
I especially like spending warm summer days at the numerous award-winning wineries in Hood River while sipping cold Chardonnay and watching the sunset over Mt. Hood.
You May Enjoy Reading: The 20 Most Beautiful Places in Oregon
#22 Oregon has the first state to legalize assisted suicide
Oregon is a forward-thinking and progressive state in many ways. Not afraid to be first at anything, the state legalized physician-assisted suicide in 1994. Effectively allowing terminally ill patients to end illnesses on their own terms.
I know that assisted suicide is a controversial issue, but between you and me, these facts about Oregon make me love the state more. I’m glad to live in a state where an adult can make decisions that are respected by the state.
Oregon’s Assisted Dying bill became a template for other states and when it was introduced and passed in 1994, 73% of poll respondent said they were in favor of the bill.
#23. Portland is home to one of the largest roosts of Vaux’s Swifts in the world
Like clockwork, every September, Portland’s Chapman Elementary is swarmed with locals eager to catch a glimpse of migrating Vaux’s Swifts as they fly into the school’s chimney by the thousands to nest for the night.
This is one of the largest roosts of Vaux Swifts in the world, which is one of the coolest facts about Oregon! See video here.
Portlanders make an entire event out of this incredible sight because it’s such a great free thing to do in Portland. Bring a picnic blanket or chairs and enjoy an evening of wander surrounded by friends.
Further Reading: How to see the famous swifts in Portland
Weird Facts About Oregon
#24. The state’s birthday is Valentines Day
Oregon became an official state February 14, 1859. Only fitting that a state keen on acceptance and love celebrate her birthday on Valentine’s Day!
#25. You can’t pump your own gas in Oregon
Yep, this is one of the weirdest facts about Oregon, but you can’t pump your own gas — it’s actually illegal. Odd, right?
The law was first introduced in 1951 due to concerns of untrained staff handling flammable liquid. Oregon was not alone in having this law, most states had similar rules in the 1950’s.
Things have changed drastically since that time and pumping gas is no longer considered unsafe but Oregon (and New Jersey) have remained stubborn and still refuse to allow residents to pump gas.
Personally, I view this as a perk of living in Oregon, especially during the winter months. However, some folks (like my husband) view this as a disadvantage of living in Portland.
There’s an exception to this odd Oregon fact: you can pump your own gas in rural areas at night, thanks to an amendment made in 2016.
#26. Portland is home to the smallest park in the world
In 1971, Guinness World Records confirmed what most Portlanders already knew — Mill Ends Park is the smallest park in the world.
Clocking in at a mere two square feet, Mill Ends Park is officially recognized as the smallest park in the world. It wouldn’t Portland if it wasn’t weird, right?
I’ll admit, This is also one of the strangest facts about Oregon, but hey — we’ll take the attention where we can get it.
Regardless, this little park is a beloved Portland treasure and visiting it is one of the best things to do in Portland. The tree was actually stolen once (in 2013) but promptly returned presumably due to remorse.
Further Reading: The 12 Most Beautiful Parks in Portland, Oregon
#27. Oregon is home to the oldest rose garden in the world
Portland is often referred to as the City of Roses because the local climate creates the perfect conditions for growing roses and nowhere is this more evident than at the exceptional Portland Rose Garden within Washington Park, which is usually in bloom from May to October.
Portland’s beloved rose garden is both the largest rose garden in America and the oldest (which is one of the coolest Oregon facts!). Home to an impressive 650+ varieties of roses and more than 10,000+ bushes, it’s easily one of the best free things to do in Portland.
The history of the rose garden is equally fascinating. Originally started in 1915 by Jesse Currey, (an Oregon Journal editor and rose hobbyist), the rose garden was created in an effort to preserve roses susceptible to eradication during World War I.
You don’t have to be a rose-enthusiast to appreciate this beautiful garden. It’s no wonder why this is one of the most visited places in Portland.
Further Reading: Where to See Roses in Portland, Oregon
#28. Portland’s name was decided via coin toss
Let’s wrap this list of the most interesting facts about Oregon with a classic. Some folks don’t know that Portland’s name was decided via coin toss! Here’s the story:
The founders of Portland, Oregon were two settlers from New England. One from Boston, Massachusetts and the other from Portland, Maine. Both settlers wanted to name the city after their respective home towns and decided to settle for a coin toss – the rest, as they say, is history.
Speaking of Portland, Maine, did you know that the two Portlands lie at practically identical latitudes? Portland, Oregon lies at a latitude of 45:30, and Portland, Maine lies at a latitude of 43:40.
If you’re looking for unique date ideas in Portland, I suggest swinging by the Portland Historical Society to see the 1845 penny used to decide Portland’s name.
Cool Oregon Facts (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of some cool facts about Oregon state. Hope you enjoyed!
- Mt. Hood is the third most climbed mountain in the world
- Oregon is home to the largest organism on earth
- Portland is home to the second largest copper statue in America
- Oregon actually has an (official) state nut
- Powell’s Books is the largest independent bookstore in the world
- Oregon is home to the deepest canyon in North America
- Oregon’s beaches can’t be private
- Portland has the most breweries of any city
- The state is home to 750+ wineries
- Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the country
- There’s no state sales tax in Oregon
- Oregon is the 9th largest state in the union
- The creator of the Simpsons hails from Portland
- The state flag is (very) unique
- There’s an extinct volcano within Portland’s city limits
- Tater tots were created in Oregon
- Corn dogs were invented in Oregon as well
- Portland is home to one of the largest roosts of Vaux’s Swifts in the world
- Our cheese was voted best in the world in 2019/20
- It was the first state to ban non-reusable bottles
- Portland is the most bike-friendly city in the US
- The Columbia Gorge was the first scenic highway in the US
- Oregon has the first state to legalize assisted suicide
- The state’s birthday is Valentines Day
- You can’t pump your own gas in Oregon
- Portland is home to the smallest park in the world
- They don’t call it Rose City for nothing
- Portland’s name was decided via coin toss
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