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  Oregon
Oregon is a coastal U.S. state in the Pacific Northwest region known for its diverse landscape of farms, forests, mountains and beaches. Metro Portland is famous for its quirky, avant-garde culture and is home to iconic coffee shops, boutiques, farm-to-table restaurants and microbreweries. It lies in the Willamette Valley, a renowned red-wine-producing area. Snow-capped Mt. Hood, to the east, offers hiking and skiing.
Capital: Salem
Minimum wage: 9.25 USD per hour (Jan 1, 2015)
Population: 3.97 million (2014)
State bird: Western Meadowlark
Colleges and Universities: University of Oregon

Spanish and English sailors are believed to have sighted the Oregon coast in the 1500s and 1600s. Capt. James Cook, seeking the Northwest Passage, charted some of the coastlines in 1778. In 1792, Capt. Robert Gray, in the Columbia, discovered the river named after his ship and claimed the area for the U.S.

In 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition explored the area. John Jacob Astor's fur depot, Astoria, was founded in 1811. Disputes for control of Oregon between American settlers and the Hudson Bay Company were finally resolved in the 1846 Oregon Treaty, in which Great Britain gave up claims to the region.

In the agricultural sector, greenhouse and nursery products such as daffodils, gladioli, irises, lilies, peonies and tulips for bulbs are Oregon's most valuable. Hay is Oregon's second-ranked crop generating 7% of the state's total agricultural receipts.

Ryegrass, wheat, and onions are also valuable crops within the state. Oregon produces almost all of the country's seed for bentgrass, fescue, ryegrass, crimson clover, Kentucky and merion bluegrasses and orchardgrass. Oregon is a leader in the production of peppermint oil and Christmas trees.

With the low-cost electric power provided by dams, Oregon has developed steadily as a manufacturing state. Leading manufactured items are lumber and plywood, metalwork, machinery, aluminum, chemicals, paper, food packing, and electronic equipment. Following the high-tech component, the industry is the wood processing industry where manufactured products include plywood, veneer, and particleboard. Oregon leads the states in lumber production.

Crater Lake National Park, Mount Hood, and Bonneville Dam on the Columbia are major tourist attractions. Other points of interest include the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Oregon Caves National Monument, Cape Perpetua in Siuslaw National Forest, Columbia River Gorge between The Dalles and Troutdale, Hells Canyon, Newberry Volcanic National Monument, and John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

In 2012's Gallup's general survey, Oregon was ranked the third bluest (most liberal) state behind Washington DC and Massachusetts. In another 2012 Gallup survey, Oregon placed near the bottom of the most religious states. Oregon placed fifth from the bottom, tying with Rhode Island and ahead of only four states, all located in New England. Meanwhile, state education officials reported that more than 20,000 students took, at least, one AP exam in 2012. That's a third of the graduating 2012 class and a 6.6 percent increase from 2011.

Nickname: Beaver State

Origin of name: Unknown. However, it is accepted that the name, first used by Jonathan Carver in 1778, was taken from the writings of Maj. Robert Rogers, an English army officer.

10 largest cities (2010 est.): Portland, 583,776; Eugene, 156,185; Salem 154,637; Gresham, 105,594; Hillsboro, 91,611; Beaverton, 89,803; Bend, 76,639; Medford, 74,907; Springfield,