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Popularly known as the ‘Beaver State’, Oregon is the 33rd state that was admitted to the Union in 1859. It’s a beautiful state and many people enjoy visiting it from all over the world. Oregon has been the home of many indigenous nations for hundreds of years and it also has a rich culture and an even richer history. Like most other U.S. state, Oregon is never dull and there’s always something to do whether you’re a resident or just visiting it for the first time.
The state of Oregon has 27 official emblems, each one designated by the State Legislature. While some of these are commonly designated as state symbols of the other U.S. states, there are others like’ square dancing’ and the ‘black bear’ that are also symbols of several other U.S. states as well. In this article, we’ll be going through several of the most important symbols and what they stand for.
Flag of Oregon
Officially adopted in 1925, the flag of Oregon is the only state flag in the U.S. that features different images on the back and front. It consists of the words ‘State of Oregon’ and ‘1859’ (the year Oregon became a state) in gold letters on a navy-blue background.
In the centre of the flag is a shield that consists of the forests and mountains of Oregon. There’s an elk, a covered wagon with a team of oxen, the Pacific Ocean with the sun setting behind it and a British man-of-war ship departing (symbolizing the British influence departing from the region). There’s also an American merchant ship arriving which represents the rise of American power.
The reverse of the flag features the state animal – the beaver which played an important role in the history of the state.
State Seal of Oregon
The Oregon state seal displays a shield surrounded by 33 stars (Oregon is the 33rd U.S. state). At the center of the design is the emblem of Oregon, featuring a plow, a sheaf of wheat and a pickax which symbolize the state’s agricultural and mining resources. On the crest is the American bald eagle, a symbol of strength and power and around the seal’s perimeter are the words ‘State of Oregon 1859’.
Named the official state rock in 1965, the thunderegg is unique in design, pattern and color. When cut and polished, these rocks reveal highly exquisite designs. Often called ‘nature’s wonder’, they’re highly prized and much sought after around the globe.
According to legend, the rocks were named by the Native Americans of Oregon who believed that jealous, rival gods (who they called ‘thunderspirits’) hurled them at each other in anger during thunderstorms.
In reality, thundereggs are formed within layers of rhyolitic volcanic when water carries silica and moves through porous rock. The stunning colors come from the minerals found in the soil and rock. These unique rock formations are found all over Oregon which is one of the most famous locations for thundereggs in the world.
Dr. John McLoughlin
Dr. John McLoughlin was a French-Canadian and later American who became known as the ‘Father of Oregon’ in 1957 for the role he played in helping the American cause in the Oregon country. Two bronze statues were made to honor him. One stands at the State Capitol of Oregon while the other is installed in Washington, D.C. in the National Statuary Hall Collection.
Oregon State Capitol
Located in Salem, the capital city of Oregon, the State Capitol houses the offices of the governor, the state legislature and the secretary and treasurer of the state. Completed in 1938, the building is the third in Oregon to house the state government in Salem since the first two capitol buildings were destroyed by terrible fires.
In 2008, the current state capitol building caught fire early in the morning. Luckily, it was quickly extinguished and although it had caused some damage to the Governor’s offices on the second floor, the building was saved from the terrible fate that had struck the first two capitols.
The beaver (Castor Canadensis) is the second largest rodent in the world after the capybara. It’s been the state animal of Oregon since 1969. Beavers were extremely important in the history of Oregon as the early settlers caught them for their fur and lived on their meat.
The trapping routes that were used by the early ‘mountain men’ later became famous as ‘The Oregon Trail’. This was travelled by hundreds of pioneers back in the 1840s. The beaver population dropped greatly as a result of being hunted by humans but through management and protection, it’s now stabilized. Oregon is famous as the ‘Beaver State’ and the reverse of the state flag features a golden beaver on it.
The Douglas Fir is a coniferous, evergreen tree native to North America. It’s designated the official state tree of Oregon. It’s a large tree that grows up to 325 feet in height with a 15-foot diameter trunk and its timber is said to be stronger than even concrete.
The fir has fragrant, soft, blue-green needles that make it one of the most popular options for Christmas trees in the U.S. Originally, the trees were harvested mostly from forest lands but since the early 1950s, most Douglas firs are grown on plantations. The seeds and foliage of the Douglas fir are important sources of cover and food for many animals and its timber is also used as a source of lumber for making wood products.
The western meadowlark is a small, passerine songbird that builds its nest on the ground and is native to central and western North America. It forages beneath the soil for insects, weed seeds and grain and about 65-70% of its diet consists of cutworms, caterpillars, beetles, spiders and snails. It builds its nest in the shape of a cup by weaving dried grass and bark into the surrounding vegetation. In 1927, the western meadowlark became the state bird of Oregon, chosen by school in a poll that was sponsored by the Audubon Society of the state.
Tabitha Moffatt Brown
Designated as the ‘State Mother of Oregon’, Tabitha Moffatt Brown was a pioneer colonist of American who travelled the Oregon Trail by wagon train all the way to the Oregon County where she assisted with founding the Tualatin Academy. The academy later grew to become Pacific University in Forest Grove. Brown went on to build a school and home for orphans and her eloquent writings gave unique insight into herself and the times she lived in.
Pacific Golden Chanterelle Mushroom
The Pacific golden chanterelle mushrooms, designated as the official mushroom of Oregon in 1999, is unique to the Pacific northwest. It’s a wild, edible fungi which high culinary value. More than 500,000 lbs of these chanterelles are harvested every year in Oregon.
The Pacific golden chanterelle is different from other chanterelle mushrooms because of its long, graceful stem that tapers to the base and the tiny dark scales on its cap. It also has a pinkish hue in its false gills and its color is usually orange to yellow.
This mushroom was chosen as the official state mushroom of Oregon in 1999 and is highly popular among the people of the state because of its fruity smell and its floral taste.
The Oregon Trition
The Oregon hairy trition is a shell that’s native to North America but is found in Alaska, California and northern Japan. They often wash up on the beach during high tides. The triton shells grow from about 8-13 centimetres long and are light brown in color. The reason they’re called hairy is because they’re covered in a bristly, gray-brown periostracum.
The Oregon triton was designated as the official shell of the state in 1991. It’s one of the largest shells found in the state and symbolizes birth, resurrection and good fortune. It’s said that dreaming of a triton shell symbolizes positive feelings about gaining awareness of the people around you and it could also mean that good fortune is coming your way.
The Oregon sunstone was made the state’s official gemstone in 1987. These stones are found only in Oregon, making them a symbol of the state.
Oregon sunstone is one of the most unique types of gemstones, known for its color and the metallic flashes it exhibits. This is because of the composition of the stone, made of crystal feldspar with copper inclusions. Some specimens also show two different colors, depending on the angle from which its viewed.
Sunstones are excellent souvenirs of Oregon and are highly sought after by jewelry lovers and mineral collectors.
Champoeg is a former town of Oregon, said to be the birthplace of the state. Although it was once bustling with a huge population, it’s now abandoned and has become a ghost town. However, its annual Historical Pageant is one of the biggest events in the state every year. The Champoeg Amphitheater was built for the purpose of hosting this annual event, labeled the ‘Official Pageant of Oregon Statehood’.
Sponsored by the Friends of Historic Champoeg, this was officially adopted as the state outdoor pageant of Oregon and hundreds of people participate in it each year.