The Flag of Oregon: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Flag of Oregon
© GG Digital Arts/Shutterstock.com

Written by Heather Hall

Updated: January 10, 2023

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Where is Oregon State?

Oregon is a state in the western United States, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Washington to the north, Idaho to the east, and California and Nevada to the south. It is the 9th largest state in the United States and the 33rd most populous. The state capital is Salem, and the largest city is Portland.

When was Oregon Founded?

Oregon was founded as an independent nation in 1843 and was admitted to the Union in 1859 as the 33rd state. The story of the founding of Oregon is rooted in the early 19th century when large numbers of settlers arrived in the region seeking land and opportunity. The settlers were primarily American but also had a strong influence from the British and other European nations, as well as Native American tribes. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 officially established the Oregon Territory, which eventually became the state of Oregon.

Map with Oregon and surrounding areas

Oregon is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Washington to the north, Idaho to the east, and California and Nevada to the south.

©Mio Buono/Shutterstock.com

What is the Oregon Trail?

The Oregon Trail is one of American history’s most famous and iconic trails. A 2,000-mile-long route stretching from Missouri to Oregon allowed settlers to travel west during the mid-1800s. The route took around six months to traverse, with travelers facing many challenges, such as difficult terrain, disease, and conflicts with Native Americans. Today it is celebrated as an important part of American history. It serves as a reminder of the courage displayed by those who traveled it in search of new opportunities.

What is the Political Structure of Oregon?

Oregon is a representative democracy with three branches of government: the executive, legislative, and judicial. The executive branch is headed by the Governor, who is elected for a four-year term. The legislative branch is the Oregon State Legislature, which is bicameral and consists of the Senate and House of Representatives. The judicial branch is headed by the Oregon Supreme Court, the state’s highest court.

What is the Geography and Climate of Oregon?

Oregon has a varied geography, with high mountains in the eastern part of the state, including the Cascade Range and the Blue Mountains, and a low, rolling landscape in the western part, with the Oregon Coast Range running along the Pacific coast.

A temperate rainforest climate characterizes the western part of Oregon. This environment is dominated by coniferous and deciduous trees, which can thrive in this wet climate. The area also features abundant rainfall throughout the year with no distinct dry season. This combination of moderate temperature and high precipitation creates an ideal environment for various plants and animals, making it one of the most biodiverse regions in the United States.

The eastern part of Oregon lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains, making it much drier than other parts of the state. The climate is generally arid, with hot summers and cold winters. Rainfall varies greatly from region to region but is usually less than 10 inches annually. Summers are typically sunny and warm, while winter temperatures can get quite cold due to higher elevation compared to other parts of the state. Precipitation is also more scarce in this area – snowfall averages around 20-25 inches per year across most areas, though some locations receive as little as 5-10 inches each year.

Oregon has varied geography

Oregon has a varied geography with high mountains and low, rolling landscapes.

©Eric Backman/Shutterstock.com

What Animals Can Be Found in Oregon?

Oregon is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions, deer, elk, coyotes, wolves, foxes, raccoons, beavers, bobcats, and many species of birds and fish.

Flag of Oregon: Description and Symbolism

The flag of Oregon is a two-sided flag adopted in 1925. The front of the flag is blue with gold lettering. The words STATE OF OREGON are emblazoned across the top in large capital letters. Below the letters is the state shield (which is part of the state seal), surrounded by 33 stars. Below the shield is the year 1859. It is permissible for the flag to have a golden fringe around the border for special occasions.

On the flag’s reverse side is a blue background with a beaver printed directly in the center. The beaver is standing on a log and facing to the right.

The symbols on the Oregon flag stand for independence and sovereignty. The many characters on the shield represent the abundance of natural resources in Oregon. 

Flag of Oregon waving in the wind

The Oregon flag is one of the few flags with images on both sides and showcases much of Oregon’s history.

©Box Lab/Shutterstock.com

Oregon State Seal: Description and Symbolism

The Oregon State Seal represents the state’s history and commitment to justice, progress, and freedom. The seal was designed by Harvey Gordon in 1857 and officially adopted by an act of the Legislative Assembly on February 15th, 1893.

It features a circle with the words State of Oregon and 1859 around the edge. Inside the circle is a shield with a bald eagle standing on top. Inside the shield is a scene showing a mountain range, an elk, a covered wagon, and the Pacific Ocean. Inside the ocean is a British man-of-war leaving while an American steamer ship is arriving.

The British ship leaving symbolizes the end of British rule. The elk represents the abundance of wild game in the state. There are 33 stars surrounding the shield because Oregon was the 33rd state in the Union.

Seal of the State of Oregon

The Oregon State Seal represents the state’s history and commitment to justice, progress, and freedom.

©ExpertOutfit/Shutterstock.com

What are the State Symbols of Oregon?

Oregon has a variety of state symbols, including the Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) as the state flower. The Oregon Grape is an evergreen shrub native to the Pacific Northwest and was officially adopted as the state flower of Oregon in 1899. The bright yellow flowers bloom from April to June, followed by edible round berries used for jams, jellies, juice, pies, and wines. It is also a symbol of independence and resilience due to its ability to thrive in difficult conditions.

Additionally, the western meadowlark is the state bird, the chinook salmon is the state fish, the douglas fir is the state tree, and the beaver is the state animal.

The Oregon Sunstone is a highly sought-after gemstone, prized for its unique composition and bright colors. It can only be found in certain areas of southeastern Oregon, meaning it is an important resource for the region’s tourism and economic development. In 1987, the Oregon state legislature officially designated the sunstone as the official state gemstone, further boosting interest in this remarkable mineral. Since then, the stone has become even more popular with collectors and miners, who are always looking for new specimens of this rare and stunningly beautiful gemstone.

Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) state flower

The Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) was officially adopted as the state flower of Oregon in 1899.

©Natalka De/Shutterstock.com

Does Oregon Have a State Song?

Yes, Oregon has a state song, “Oregon, My Oregon,” which was adopted in 1927. John A. Buchanan wrote the lyrics, and the music was composed by Henry B. Murtagh. The original lyrics to the song contained racist and exclusionary language and were replaced in 2021 to reflect the evolution of the state.

Here are some of the new lyrics to the song:

“Land of the rose and sunshine, land of the summer’s breeze.

Laden with health and vigor, fresh from the western seas.

Blessed by the love of freedom, land of the setting sun.

Hail to thee, land of promise, my Oregon.”

Does Oregon have a State Dance?

Yes! Oregon does have a state dance. The official State Dance of Oregon is the square dance, which was adopted in 1977. Square dancing is an American folk dance with roots dating back to the 1700s and 1800s when settlers brought their traditional dances from England, France, and Germany.

Square dancing is performed by four couples forming a square formation while they perform specific moves called “calls” that are directed by a caller who leads the dancers through each step. This popular form of entertainment has been enjoyed throughout history as an enjoyable way to socialize with friends and family of all ages.

Does Oregon Have a Nickname?

Yes, Oregon is sometimes referred to as the “Beaver State” due to the many beavers that inhabit the state. There were once over 400 million beavers in North America. The trapping trade reduced the numbers drastically, but they are now rising. The most recent count brings the beaver population between 10-50 million.

Oregon is often called the Beaver State

Oregon is sometimes referred to as the “Beaver State” due to the many beavers that inhabit the state.

©P Harstela/Shutterstock.com

10 Fun Facts About Oregon

  1. Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973.
  2. Oregon was the first state to pass a law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2007.
  3. Oregon was the first state to pass a law allowing same-sex couples to register as domestic partners in 2008.
  4. Oregon has no sales tax.
  5. Crater Lake in Oregon is the deepest lake in the U.S.A., at 1,932 feet deep.
  6. Oregon has more than 7,000 bridges.
  7. Oregon grows 99 percent of the U.S. commercial crop of hazelnuts.
  8. Nearly half of Oregon’s total area is forested.
  9. The tater tot and corn dog were invented in Oregon.
  10. Oregon is home to the largest population of wintering bald eagles.

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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

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