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Central Oregon
—  Region  —
A fast-flowing and shallow river, running between pine trees, under a clear sky
Metolius River
Coordinates: 44°30′N 121°00′W / 44.5°N 121°W / 44.5; -121Coordinates: 44°30′N 121°00′W / 44.5°N 121°W / 44.5; -121
Country USA
State Oregon
Cities Bend
 - Total 20,287.4 km2 (7,833 sq mi)

Central Oregon is a geographic region in the U.S. state of Oregon and is traditionally considered to be made up of Deschutes, Jefferson, and Crook counties. Other definitions include larger areas, often encompassing areas to the north towards the Columbia River, eastward towards Burns, or south towards Klamath Falls. These three counties have a combined population of 153,558 as of the 2000 census, with Deschutes the largest of the three counties, having approximately four times the population of the other two counties combined. As of 2008, the most populous city in the region is Bend, with an estimated 80,995 residents.[1] As defined by the three county definition, Central Oregon covers 7,833 square miles (20,290 km2) of land.

The region is located in the middle of the state with the Cascade Range to the west, which divides the state from north to south. Portions of the region are part of a basalt plateau formed by the Columbia River Basalt Group, others are part of the slopes of the Cascades, and others part of the Basin and Range. The climate of the area is primarily arid due to the rain shadow effect of the Cascades on the western boundary of the region. Outdoor recreational activities, timber, and ranching are the primary economic activities.



Location of Central Oregon within Oregon

The Central Oregon region covers approximately 7,833 square miles (20,290 km2), and sits at the convergence of the Basin and Range, Cascades, Blue Mountains, and Columbia River Plateau geologic regions. Because it is part of a historically volcanic region, volcanic rock formations are a common sight, including lava beds, volcanic buttes, crater lakes, volcanic plugs, and lava tubes.[2] Consequently, Deschutes is the most cave-rich county in Oregon with over 250 lava tubes.[3][4] Two primary rivers flow out of the region: the Deschutes and Crooked Rivers.

The local plant life of Central Oregon can be divided between the Ponderosa forests at the foot of the Cascades, and the smaller Western Juniper forests to the east, with the Deschutes River being a rough boundary between the two. Because of the lack of precipitation and high temperatures during the late summer, wildfires are a common occurrence. Small fires are essential, as they burn away detritus. With the coming of European settlers, fire suppression became a common occurrence. However, due to years of fire suppression, several major wildfires have broken out and threatened large settlements. Major wildfires are becoming less common as the practice of controlled fires by local officials increases.[5]

The distribution of people in Central Oregon is limited mainly to the rivers, with all of the towns being built on the riverside plains between the surrounding foothills. However, extensive irrigation in the region means that the arid flatlands are usable for farming and livestock.


Before the arrival of European settlers in the 19th century, Central Oregon was inhabited by the southernmost Sahaptin tribes and the northernmost tribes of the Northern Paiute.[6] However, with the arrival of settlers along the Oregon Trail in the mid 1800's, both tribes soon found themselves at odds with the settlers and the U.S. Army.

Peter Skene Ogden led a party of Hudson's Bay Company trapping through Central Oregon in 1826, becoming the first Euro-Americans explorers to visit the area. In 1843, Captain John C. Fremont and his Army survey team explored and mapped the western part of Central Oregon. Fremont was charged with mapping the Oregon Territory east of the Cascade Mountains from The Dalles on Columbia River to Sutter's Fort in Sacramento, California. The Fremont party, including Kit Carson and Thomas Fitzpatrick, camped near Bend on 4 December 1843.[7]

In 1855, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis dispatched an Army Corps of Topographical Engineers survey party to look for a railroad route from the Sacramento Valley in California to the Columbia River in the Oregon Territory. This required the party to survey the Deschutes River area in central Oregon. The survey party was led by two Lieutenants, Robert Stockton Williamson and Henry Larcom Abbot.[8][9] Newberry Crater is named after John Strong Newberry, the party's chief scientist.[7][10]

In 1865, a Company of the 1st Oregon Volunteer Infantry Regiment led by Captain Charles Lafollett established Camp Polk. The fort was set up to protect early settlers from Indian raids. It was built 2.68 miles (4.31 km) northeast of modern day Sisters. However, the post was soon abandoned.[11][12][13]

Not long after, homesteaders began to settle the region, making use of the wide open lands for ranches. In 1877, Prineville became the first city in the region, followed in 1888 by the founding of Sisters.

In the early 20th century, several major highways were constructed in the region, connecting it to the rest of the state. U.S. Route 97 would connect the region to the Columbia River and Portland, and Routes 20, 22, and 126 to the Willamette Valley.

In the first half of the 20th century, the lumber industry dominated Central Oregon’s economy. By 1915, two competing companies had built large saw mills south of Bend. The combined output of the Shevlin-Hixon and Brooks-Scanlon mills made Bend one of the largest lumber producing towns in the world. In 1924, the Shevlin-Hixon mill alone processed 200 million board feet of lumber.[14] There were at least eight lumber mills in the Prineville areas as well.[15] In the early 1930’s, Sam Johnson opened a lumber mill in Sisters, the first of six Central Oregon mills the Johnson family owned over the years. During World War II, the demand for timber increased dramatically and Central Oregon mill towns went through a period significant growth. After World War II, Johnson opened a large mill in Redmond.[15][16][17]

The Shevlin-Hixon mill closed in the early 1950s.[14] Johnson’s Redmond mill was destroyed by fire in 1963,[18] and the last mill in Sisters closed that same year.[19] In 1967, Johnson sold his last mill at Warm Springs to the Warm Springs tribal council and provided additional plywood and veneer-making equipment to help the tribe establish Warm Springs Forest Products Industries.[20] The Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company sold their remaining timber land in the 1980s.[14]


Western Diamond-back Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus sub. oreganus

Unlike the wetter regions west of the Cascades, plant and animal life is less diverse but hardier due to the arid nature of the region. Plant life, though not suitable for truly arid regions to the south, have evolved several defenses against water loss, as well as adaptions related to the yearly fires that burn through the region. Trees, such as the Ponderosa Pine, have thicker bark and do not bleed sap as profusely as trees to the west. Likewise, this thicker bark doesn't burn very easily. In fact, the Ponderosa requires small brush fires to burn through, as their cones are opened by the heat of the passing fires.[5][21] Likewise, plants such as the Black Sagebrush and Cheatgrass occur frequently within the region, especially among the shorter western juniper. There are also many different species of wildflower.

Central Oregon has a wide variety of habitats including mountain high country, conifer forest lands, riparian areas, high desert, and alkali flats. These habitats are home to many animal species. The region also have Common large mammals include American black bear, cougar, bobcat, coyote, gray fox, red fox, Mule deer, Black-tailed deer, Rocky Mountain elk, Pronghorn antelope, and Bighorn sheep. Examples of smaller mammals found in Central Oregon are beaver, raccoon, weasel, otter, mink, fisher, marten, striped skunk, Black-tailed Jackrabbit, Mountain Cottontail, Pygmy rabbit, Golden-mantled ground squirrel, and Least chipmunk.[22]

There are twelve species of hawks and eagles and hawks that are found in Central Oregon. There are also five falcon species. These birds of prey include Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Northern Goshawk, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, American kestrel, Prairie falcon, and Peregrine falcon. There are thirteen owls species including Barn owl, Barred owl, Boreal owl, Burrowing owl, Great Gray Owl, and Great Horned Owl. Turkey Vultures are also common. Central Oregon is home seven woodpeckers species including Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, and Lewis's Woodpecker. Northern Flickers are found in the Central Oregon woodlands. There are number smaller bireds as well. These include various larks, tanagers, swallows, jays, crows, chickadees, wrentits, dippers, nuthatches, wrens, thrushes, and grosbeaks.[23]

There are nine snake species found in Central Oregon. These include Western rattlesnake, Gopher snake, Rubber boa, Northwestern garter snake, and Common garter snake. There are also numerous turtles, lizards and frogs that are native to the region. These include Western pond turtle, Common collared lizard, Northern alligator lizard, Sagebrush lizard, Short-horned lizard, Western fence lizard, Western skink, Bullfrog, and Cascades frog.[24]

Historically, the local rivers have also been populated by several species of Pacific Ocean salmon. However, because of the numerous hydroelectric dams on the Columbia, there has been a reduction in the number of ocean going species of fish.[25]


Because it sits in the rain shadow of the Cascade mountains, Central Oregon is fairly arid during most of the year. Likewise temperatures often straddle 85 °F (29 °C) during July and August. Winter weather, while wetter, is no less harsh. Temperatures can drop to 15 °F (−9 °C) at night during the late fall and winter months.[26][27] Winter snowfalls are also dangerous. Snowfalls quickly build up layers of ice as it begins to melt and refreeze daily over the months of December and January. This means that the snow is heavier and more solid, making it difficult to plow.[28]


Fly fishing is a popular pastime in Central Oregon

The economy of Central Oregon relies heavily upon timber, ranching and outdoor recreation. Much of Central Oregon is covered in forest, and while logging has declined in recent year, it is still an important part of the region economy. Other areas are ideal for the raising of livestock. A wide variety of outdoor recreation opportunities are also available in the region.

The Deschutes National Forest includes approximately 1.8 million along the east side of the Cascade mountains. Deschutes National Forest lands cover much of Deschutes and Jefferson counties, extending into the northern parts of Klamath and Lake counties. The Ochoco National Forest is located north and east of Prineville. It covers approxiamtely 850,000 acres in the Ochoco Mountains and surrounding areas. The timber and recreation opportunities of these two national forests are great assets to the Central Oregon region. Together the two forests support many local businesses, contributing to the economic livelihoods of more than 50,000 people in the region.[29]

Central Oregon is also rich with recreational activities. Both summer and winter recreation are big draws to the region for sportsmen and tourists. Skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling are popular in the winter, while water skiing, boating, fishing, hiking, rock climbing, and several other activities draw outdoors enthusiasts during the summer.[30]

Central Oregon is the home of five destination resorts as defined by Oregon's Department of Land Conservation and Development. Sunriver is south of Bend. Pronghorn is northeast of Bend. Eagle Crest is west of Redmond. Black Butte Ranch is west of Sisters, and Brasada Ranch is near Powell Butte. These resort are major employers within the region.[31] In addition, Mount Bachelor ski area operates chairlifts during the winter ski season. The the ski area is one of the largest in the Pacific Northwest, covering 3,683 acres (14.9 km2). The slope has a vertical drop of 3,365 feet (1,026 m).[32]

Incorporated cities

A view from Pilot Butte, looking west at the city of Bend with the Cascade Mountains in the background.

See also


  1. ^ "Certified Population Estimates for Oregon's Cities and Towns". Population Research Center. Portland State University. March 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-29.  
  2. ^ Orr, William N. and Elizabeth L. (2006). Geology of the Pacific Northwest, 2nd. Ed.. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc.. ISBN 978-1-57766-480-2.  
  3. ^ Oregon High Desert Grotto
  4. ^ Maben, Scott (March 11th, 1994 p. A-17). "Guidelines Set to Save C.O. Caves".,806941&dq=deschutes+cave&hl=en. Retrieved 2009-10-18.  
  5. ^ a b "Beyond the Flames: The Story of Wildfire in Central Oregon". Project Wildfire, Central Oregon Fire Prevention Co-op.. 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-19.  
  6. ^ Mollie Jackson. "Languages of Oregon". University of Oregon Linguistics Department. Retrieved 2009-03-12.  
  7. ^ a b "History - 1800 to 1899", Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, Unites States Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Bend, Oregon, 12 June 200.
  8. ^ Abbot, Charles Greeley, Biographical Memoir of Henry Larcom Abbot, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., 1929.
  9. ^ Jette, Melinda, "Mount Jefferson and Black Butte", Oregon History Project, Oregon Historical Society, 2003.
  10. ^ McArthur, Lewis A. and Lewis L. McArthur, Oregon Geographic Names (Seventh Edition), Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland, Oregon, 2003, p. 702.
  11. ^ "The Oregon Story:History of a Place Timeline, Camp Polk Meadow Preserve". Retrieved 2009-04-18.  
  12. ^ Edwards, Glenn Thomas, Oregon Regiments in the Civil War Years: Duty on the Indian Frontier, unpublished Master of Arts thesis, Department of History, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, June 1960.
  13. ^ "History of the 1st Oregon Volunteer Infantry, Company A", 1st Oregon Volunteer Infantry,, Oregon City, Oregon, 27 July 2009.
  14. ^ a b c “History of Deschutes County”, Deschutes County Government,, Bend, Oregon, 30 July 2009.
  15. ^ a b “Ponderosa Pine Capital of the World Crook County Oregon”, digital exhibit, A.R. Bowman Memorial Museum, Prineville, Oregon, 3 August 2009.
  16. ^ History of Deschutes County in Oregon, Deschutes County Historical Society, Bend, Oregon: 1985, pp. 300-2.
  17. ^ Interview with Elizabeth H. Johnson (transcribed from tape by Maret Pajutee), Sisters Watershed History Fest, Sisters Country Historical Society, 2006.
  18. ^ "Tite Knot loss mostly covered by insurance", The Bend Bulletin, Bend, Oregon, 2 August 1963.
  19. ^ "Sisters Country Timeline", Sisters Country Historical Society,, Sisters, Oregon, 2006.
  20. ^ Binus, Joshus, "Warm Springs Reservation Mill", The Oregon History project, Oregon Historical Society, 2003.
  21. ^ "Ponderosa Pine - DesertUSA". Retrieved 2009-04-18.  
  22. ^ "Mammals", Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, Unites States Forest Service, United States Department of Agricluture, Bend, Oregon, 8 March 2004.
  23. ^ "Birds", Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, Unites States Forest Service, United States Department of Agricluture, Bend, Oregon, 29 March 2004.
  24. ^ "Reptiles and Amphibians", Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, Unites States Forest Service, United States Department of Agricluture, Bend, Oregon, 5 April 2004.
  25. ^ "Dams: impacts on salmon and steelhead". Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Retrieved 2009-04-19.  
  26. ^ " - Bend Climate". Retrieved 2009-04-19.  
  27. ^ "Sisters, Oregon Facts, Schools, Colleges, Weather, Zip Code, and more". Retrieved 2009-04-19.  
  28. ^ "Rainfall makes for ripe avalanche conditions in Cascades". 2008-12-14. Retrieved 2009-04-19.  
  29. ^ "Trivia", Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, Unites States Forest Service, United States Department of Agricluture, Bend, Oregon, 24 July 2009.
  30. ^ "Central Oregon Outdoor Recreation". Retrieved 2009-04-19.  
  31. ^ Williams, Steve, "The Expansion of Oregon’s Destination Resorts", WorkSource Oregon,, Oregon Employment Department, Salem, Oregon, 29 March 2007.
  32. ^ Mountain Stats",, Mt Bachelor Ski Resort, Bend, Oregon, 24 July 2009.

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Central Oregon is a region of Oregon.

  • Fort Rock
  • Crack-in-the-Ground
  • Lost Forest
  • Devil's Playground
  • Hole-in-the-Ground
  • Cougar Mountain
  • Green Mountain
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