Geographically one of the most varied states in the U.S., Oregon is roughly divided by the Cascade Mountain range into the semi-arid desert and prairie regions of the east and the forested regions of the Pacific coastline. Buttressed between two mountain ranges, the Willamette Valley is one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the U.S. This region was also the destination point of the historic Oregon Trail, which brought thousands of settlers to the Northwest region. The Territory of Oregon was established in 1848, and on February 14th, 1859, Oregon became the 33rd state to be admitted to the Union. The construction of railroads in the 1880's led to a massive increase in population and industry, which exploited Oregon's significant timber reserves. The Columbia River forms the northern border of Oregon, and the Snake River defines the eastern border with Idaho. Other major river systems include the Deschutes and Willamette Rivers. Crater Lake, formed from in the cavity of an ancient volcano, is one of the deepest lakes in the world. The Harney Basin area of Eastern Oregon is a high desert region and one of the most desolate places in the U.S.
Oregonians are concentrated mainly in the Northwestern part of the state, along the Columbia River Gorge and on the Pacific Coast. Oregon has a relatively high percentage of foreign born residents (roughly 8.7% of the population) and significant Hispanic and Asian populations. The largest city and cultural hub of the state is Portland, consistently rated as one of the most livable cities in the U.S. The capital Salem is located in the Willamette Valley. Other major cities include Eugene, home to the University of Oregon, and Bend, on the foothills of the Cascade Range. Oregon is considered one of the least religious states in the U.S., with some 12% of the population being affiliated with a church and roughly one in four Oregonians identifying themselves as non-religious. Oregon's economy is underpinned by large and varied agricultural production, including fruits, cattle, dairy products and wine. The timber industry, while hindered by forest fires and over-harvesting, is still a significant economic industry. High-tech industries in and around Portland have established themselves in recent years. Oregon is also home to the shoemaker Nike, whose headquarters are located in Beaverton. The state is considered left-leaning politically, giving the last five Democratic Presidential candidates its 7 electoral votes.