A map of OregonOregon is located in the northwestern region of the United States. Rising steeply from the narrow Pacific coastal plain is the Coast Range. Inland lies the Willamette Valley. Here, where the Willamette River flows north through rolling farmland, is the industrial heart of the state and the location of its largest cities. Farther east, beyond the snowcapped volcanic peaks of the Cascades, is the high Columbia Plateau. These densely forested uplands are cut through by steep gorges. In the south, they merge into the semi-arid Great Basin region. Little vegetation grows here, and the area is largely empty of human habitation.
There are several theories for how Oregon came to be called. It may have had Spanish origins. Spanish explorers in the late 18th century referred to what is now called the Columbia River the Orejón. The British called the river the Ouragon, believing that to be its Native American name.
Wallowa Whitman National ForestAnother theory is the name comes from the French word ouragan, meaning “windstorm" or "hurricane", after the strong Chinook winds of the lower Columbia River area. Others say it may have a Portuguese origin, from the expression aure il agua, meaning “hear the waters” (of the Columbia). This gradually changed over time to Oragua, then to Oregon. It is even possible the name came from a printer’s error on a map in which the Ouisiconsink (Wisconsin) River was spelled "Ouaricon-sint”. The label appeared on two lines with the -sint below, so there appeared to be a river flowing west with the name "Ouaricon."
Oregon suffered the only fatal attack on the US mainland committed by a foreign nation since 1848 when a Japanese bomb exploded on Gearhart Mountain near Bly in May 1945, killing six people.
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