Willamette Valley

Just to the east of the Oregon Coast Mountain Range is the state’s largest and most heavily populated valley, the Willamette Valley. Nearly 70% of all Oregonians reside in the valley, which is also a major agricultural area famous for its vineyards, farms and orchards. Most of Oregon’s major cities are also located here, including Portland, Salem, Corvallis and Eugene. The Kalapuya Indians dominated the area prior to the arrival of Europeans in the early nineteenth century. The wooded valley floor and forested hilltops provided habitat for all kinds of animals important to these hunter-gatherer people, including birds, small game, deer and elk. The valley’s fertile soil and mild climate also meant the Kalapuya could supplement their diet with a variety of roots, seeds, fruits, berries and nuts. The hazelnut was a major food source for the native people, and still ranks as one of the valley’s primary commercial crops today. Interest in the Willamette Valley rose after scientific journals from the Corps of Discovery were published in 1804. Descriptions of the valley’s abundant natural resources and mild weather lured hundreds of thousands of emigrants from the eastern United States starting about 1811. Following a route known as the Oregon Trail, most of these settlers homesteaded in the Willamette Valley, many becoming prosperous through agriculture, timber, fishing, trapping and mining.

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