Eastern Oregon

Eastern Oregon

Eastern Oregon is the eastern part of the U.S. state of Oregon. It is not an officially recognized geographic entity, so its boundaries vary according to context. It is sometimes understood to include only the eight easternmost counties in the state; in other contexts, it includes the entire area east of the Cascade Range.


According to the Eastern Oregon Visitor's Association, Eastern Oregon includes only the following counties: Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Grant, Baker, Harney, and counties.

Four of the largest population centers east of the Cascade Range – Bend, Redmond, Klamath Falls, and The Dalles – lie outside the stricter boundary. Other large population centers include Hermiston, Pendleton, La Grande, Baker City, and Ontario.

The extreme eastern section of Oregon in the Snake River Valley, including Ontario, is part of the Treasure Valley, which extends east to Boise, Idaho; unlike the rest of the state, that section lies within the Mountain Time Zone.

Climate and ecology

Compared to the maritime rainforest climate of Western Oregon, which is adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, the climate of Eastern Oregon is a drier continental climate, with much greater seasonal variations in temperature. Unlike the Willamette Valley, Eastern Oregon gets a significant amount of snow in the winter. Some parts of Eastern Oregon receive fewer than convert|10|in|mm of rain yearly, classifying them as deserts. The driest parts are the southeast and the area near Redmond. This desert climate is in part due to a rain shadow effect caused by the Cascade Range. Pine and juniper forests cover 35% of Eastern Oregon, especially in the mountains east of Klamath Falls and in the Blue Mountains.


The region's economy is primarily agricultural. Timber and mining, while formerly key industries, have decreased in importance in recent years. Historical tourism is on the rise. The wheat growing region of Eastern Oregon includes the Columbia Plateau portion of northeastern Oregon, which begins with very marginal wheat fields in central Wasco County and extends east through Umatilla County. South of the wheat lands of northeast Oregon, agricultural activity is generally limited to livestock grazing except where irrigation is available. Irrigated areas are often used to produce alfalfa hay.


Historically, the region has been relatively isolated from Western Oregon, due to the difficulty of crossing the Cascades. Early settlers floated down the Columbia River from The Dalles to reach Western Oregon; in 1845, Sam Barlow built a road around the south side of Mount Hood, which served as the final leg of the Oregon Trail. The Applegate Trail and Santiam Wagon Road were constructed soon after, connecting eastern and western Oregon in the southern and central parts of the state. In the early 20th century, Samuel Hill built the Columbia River Highway, allowing automobiles to pass through the Columbia River Gorge.

Railroads began to be important as early as 1858 with the construction of the Oregon Portage Railroad which built a convert|4.5|mi|km|sing=on bypass around the rapids at Cascade Locks. This was followed by the 1862 incorporation of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company whose operations included building a rail bypass from The Dalles to Celilo Falls. In 1880 these two short sections of rail were incorporated into the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company (OR&N). Shortly thereafter Henry Villard, who then controlled OR&N, moved aggressively to block entry of the then under construction Northern Pacific Railway into the Columbia Gorge.cite book
last =Armbruster
first = Kurt
authorlink =
coauthors =
title =Orphan Railroad: The railroad comes to Seattle, 1953-1911
publisher =Washington State University Press
location = Pullman, WA
pages =63,80
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 0-87422-186-2
] In an agreement first made in March 1880 and formalized in the fall of 1880, the Northern Pacific Railway, then controlled by Frederick Billings, and the OR&N, at that time controlled by Henry Villard, agreed to divide the Columbia Plateau at the Snake River, with the Northern Pacific staying to the north and the OR&N staying to the south. Northern Pacific was not to build down the gorge into Portland, but would receive trackage rights on the tracks that OR&N was building on the south bank into Portland. The first St. Paul-Portland Northern Pacific train arrived in Portland on September 12, 1883, via OR&N trackage down the Oregon side of the Columbia River from Wallula, Washington forever ending the isolation of at least the northern portion of Eastern Oregon. A year later in November 1884, the Oregon Short Line was completed across southern Idaho, and met the OR&N at the border station of Huntington providing rail service that essentially paralleled the Oregon Trail all the way from Omaha, Nebraska. Later the OR&N became part of the Union Pacific Railway.

The only other railroad ever built east over the Cascade Mountains was trackage that was to become part of the Southern Pacific Railway which was opened in 1926 over Willamette Pass to Klamath Falls [http://www.trainweb.org/highdesertrails/sp.html from trainweb.org] ] to bypass the difficult line south of Eugene, Oregon to Ashland, Oregon.

All-weather highways over the Cascade Mountains were not completed until the 1930s and 1940s. [Engeman, Richard H. [http://www.ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/narratives/subtopic.cfm?subtopic_ID=496 Subtopic : Revival Styles, Highway Alignment: 1890-1940: One Big City, Many Small Towns.] The Oregon History Project. Retrieved on October 29 2007.] [Tonsfeldt, Ward and Paul G. Claeyssens. [http://www.ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/narratives/subtopic.cfm?subtopic_ID=411 Subtopic : Post-Industrial Years: 1970-Present: Tourism and Recreation.] The Oregon History Project. Retrieved on October 29 2007.]

Major road routes through eastern Oregon include I-84 from Ontario to the Columbia River Gorge. The only other interstate freeway in the region is an eleven mile (18 km) stretch of Interstate 82 that ends at the Columbia River in Umatilla. U.S. Route 395 is a major North-South route, passing through Pendleton, Burns, John Day, and Lakeview. Further west, U.S. Route 97 runs North-South from the California-Border through Klamath Falls, Bend, and Redmond to Biggs Junction on the Columbia River. Other major east-west routes include U.S. Route 26, U.S. Route 30, and U.S. Route 20.

ecessionist movement

Some residents of Eastern Oregon feel that the state of Oregon, with the majority of its population and political control based in the western part of the state, has neglected the eastern part of the state, preventing it from developing along with the western part. A movement to have Eastern Oregon secede and join the United States as a 51st state was underway in 2008.cite web|url=http://www.eastoregonian.com/main.asp?SectionID=13&SubSectionID=48&ArticleID=76761|title=Group eyes Eastern Oregon as 51st state|last=Wright|first=Phil|work=Eastern Oregonian|date=2008-04-25|accessdate=2008-04-25] This movement is similar to other Northwest secession proposals such as Jefferson, Lincoln, and Cascadia.

ee also

*Regions of Oregon


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