Oregon State Study & Population Maps

OregonWhen you’re studying the states take the opportunity to practice some of the mapping skills you’ve learned.  In this Oregon State Study we practice making population maps to show where the most people live within the state.


Oregon, inhabited first by American Indian tribes, was settled temporarily by the Spanish in the 1600-1700’s.  But the territory soon fell into other hands.  Captain Cook in looking for the Northwest Passage landed there in 1778.  Lewis and Clark camped on its coast for the winter once they’d reached the Pacific on their epic journey.  Then John Jacob Astor built the first permanent settlement, a fur trading post.

But it was the year 1842 that really defined what the state is today.  In that year the Oregon Trail opened up and settlers from the east began to pour into the territory.  Oregon Territory included what is now Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.  In 1859, just 17 years after the first wagons rolled into its lush green valleys, it became a state.

This is the Steens Mountain area in eastern Oregon, which is very dry. Photo by Bureau of Land Management, public domain.


Oregon begins with a rocky coastline in the west.  The Cascade range runs down the coast from north to south and creates a rain barrier that makes the western edge of the state very wet.  The western part of the state even has some temperate rain forest areas.

This is the Oregon Coastline. It is rocky and riddled with coastal formations like standing rocks, arches, and sea caves. Photo by Cacophony, CC license, Wikimedia.

The volcanic Cascade Range blocks much of the rain from moving inland but enough crosses that mountains that forested land dotted with lakes covers the next region of Oregon.  But the rain almost completely gives out as you move eastward.

This is Upper Klamath Lake in Central Oregon, east of the Cascade Range. Photo by Walter Siegmund, CC license, Wikimedia.

Fabulous Facts

  • Oregon Country, like California and Texas had its own autonomous government before it became a U.S. territory.  Enough settlers had come to the fertile valleys that they needed to organize a government.
  • Mt. Hood, an active stratovolcano, is the highest point. Geologists think there is a 3-6% chance the mountain could erupt in the next 30 years.
This is Mt. Hood in Oregon. The last volcano in the Cascade Range to Erupt was Mount St. Helens in 1980. Will Mt. Hood be next? Photo by Tony, CC license, Wikimedia.
  •  The Columbia River forms a long stretch of the northern border.  The river is the reason that Portland exists.
  • Eugene, Oregon is famous as the college town of running great Steve Prefontain and his U of O running team.
  • The population is about 3.9 million, the larger part living west of the Cascades.
This is downtown Portland. Portland is the largest city in the state with a population of about 600,000, but the greater urban area has a population of 1.8 million. Photo by Steve Morgan, CC license, Wikimedia.

Population Map

After learning some interesting Oregon facts my kids made population maps.  We kept it simple, using three shades of one color.  The darkest shade was the most populated area, the area right around Portland.  The medium shade was used to show the next most populated area, the area from Portland south to Eugene.  Then the rest of the state was all colored in the lightest shade.  We made a key to show what the colors on our maps represented.

Oregon Population Map 001

Print out an Oregon Map.

Oregon web

More Fun Explorations

With our state study we are also keeping track of everywhere we’ve “been” with some cool passport books and state flag stickers.  You can get both at Rainbow Resource or many other places online.  Just search for “blank passport books” and “state flag stickers.”

Additional Layers

  • Learn more about the search for the Northwest Passage, a way to sail around the American continents by going north.
  • Oregon’s state nickname is the “beaver state” because of the beaver fur trade that was important in its history.  Find out more about the fur trade and why it ended.
  • It is the only state with a two-sided flag.  One side is the state seal and the other side is a beaver.  Design your own flag.  Or learn about the anatomy of a flag and flag etiquette.
  • Do a population map of the whole United States.  Which areas are the most heavily populated?  Why do some places get so crowded while others stay rural?
  • Learn more about some famous people from Oregon’s past.  Lewis and Clark, John Jacob Astor, Herbert Hoover, Danny Glover, Ginger Rodgers, Steve Prefontain, and Joe Meek are a few famous people of Oregon.
  • The Cascade Mountain Range, which runs down the coast of British Columbia, Washington,Oregon and into California is a volcanic range.  Learn more about volcanoes.
  • Learn more about lighthouses, which dot the Oregon coast.  Some of them are still active.
  • Oregon has more ghost towns than any other state.  What is a ghost town and how does a town become a ghost town?
  • Think about how governments are organized in the beginning.  The people of Oregon formed a government in pioneer days.  Why did they do that?  what did they hope the government would do for them?  Did they form the government so they would have someone to run their lives and tell them what to do?  What do you think the purpose of government is?

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