Why Oregon is the destination for environmentally conscious travelers
Published January 2013 by Expedia and Travel Oregon
America’s 33rd state, Oregon has a very diverse landscape encompassing towering mountains, dense forests, magnificent waterfalls and elevated desert areas as well as an often windswept and rainy Pacific coastline to the west. At the highest levels, the forests are of tightly packed evergreen trees, while lower down they are deciduous or of mixed vegetation; aspens are common in the east and alders in the west of the state.
The Cascade Mountain Range is glaciated and home to volcanoes. At 11,249 feet, Mount Hood is the highest point in Oregon and considered to be the volcano most likely to erupt – although the chances of eruption in the next 30 years or so are estimated to be between three and seven percent, and informally Mount Hood is believed to be dormant. Waterfalls include the spectacular Multnomah Falls at the Columbia River Gorge; this waterfall is two-stepped and has a total height of 620 feet.
Crater Lake National Park is in the south of the state and encompasses the caldera of Crater Lake, which resulted from the collapse of land in the wake of a volcanic eruption. There are also surviving traces of a destroyed volcano, Mount Mazama, and its surrounding forests and hills.
The largest city in Oregon is Portland, located near the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers, and has a population of about 585,000 people.
The earliest settlers in Oregon probably arrived in the area about 15,000 years ago. The oldest evidence of habitation was found at Fort Rock Cave – a National Historic Landmark since 1961 – as well as the Paisley Caves in Lake County, south central Oregon. It’s believed that there were settlements throughout the state, with the most populated sites concentrated along the lower Columbia River, around coastal estuaries and in the western valleys.
Agritourism and viticulture
A diverse range of agriculture in Oregon attracts many environmentally conscious travelers who are enticed by the prospect of picking grapes and hazelnuts in the fertile Willamette Valley in the northwest, which is the heart of Oregon wine country, or cranberries in the southern part of the state. Wheat is grown in the north, and Oregon ranchers and farmers also produce cattle, dairy products, eggs, poultry and sheep.
Just as many people enjoy visiting vineyards in rural parts of Europe, so the American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) of the Willamette Valley are popular destinations for those interested in Oregon wine. The Yamhill-Carlton District AVA, for example, is located in both Yamhill County, Oregon and Washington County and surrounds the towns of Carlton and Yamhill. Most vineyards are located on the sheltered south-facing slopes of the mountain ridges that surround the district, creating the shape of a horseshoe.
Some lovers of the outdoors enjoy the area so much that they long to make it their permanent home, as did the folks who settled at Abbey Road Farm in 2003. They were determined to be at the vanguard of the American version of an essentially European style of agritourism. Guests staying here have the opportunity to participate in seasonal activities, such as milking goats by hand and harvesting garden crops. Abbey Road Farm lies in the center of the most prolific area for wines in the valley, and there are some 200+ wineries and vineyards within a half hour’s drive from their doorstep.
The grapes planted in Oregon are often the same varieties that can be found in the French regions of Burgundy and Alsace. This is because the Willamette Valley is at the same latitude as the Burgundy region in France and also bears similarities in the quality of soil and mildness of climate. An important region in the view of wine enthusiasts, the Willamette Valley in Oregon is in fact a significant location for vintners who make pinot noir. In 1979, Oregon winemaker David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards took his wines to a competition in Paris, France – the Jeux Olympiques du vin, or the “Wine Olympics” – and they were placed third among all the competing varieties of pinot noir. In a follow-up match in 1980 arranged by Robert Drouhin, the French wine magnate, the Eyrie vintage made it to second place.
A home from home
The attractions of Oregon are manifold, and the lay of the land is such that some of the most beautiful parts of the state, such as the Willamette Valley, are just a short trip from major airports and destinations. This means that travelers, whether they are singles, families or couples looking for a rural retreat, can easily purchase cheap tickets for flights to Oregon cities such as Portland year-round and find themselves deep in the country within a very short time. Second homes and vacation properties are becoming much more common around the US these days, and Oregon makes an ideal location for such a retreat.
The differing landscapes throughout the state provide a huge number of opportunities for outdoor sports activities, including mountain biking and hiking as well as winter skiing and other snow sports. Camping is popular; as are water sports such as kayaking, windsurfing and kiteboarding. There are a host of wildlife preserves in the county, including wetlands – nature lovers will never be disappointed, no matter what time of year they visit.
The wonderful rural scenery and the wide variety of things to do in the area tempt firms to organize corporate trips and other events here, while couples are drawn to Oregon when choosing wedding venues. Undoubtedly, the peaceful tranquility and serenity found here is a huge draw, and the owners at Abbey Road Farm have found that the availability of luxury suites, ample parking and easy access to local vineyards gives their guests a genuine opportunity to relax, whether they are there to enjoy family events, such as weddings or birthday parties, or corporate ventures.
Travelers to Oregon can play their part in promoting an eco-friendly approach to tourism by selecting accommodation, dining and activity options that protect the environment, contribute to the various local economies and promote cultural heritage. In this way, tourists can actually enhance and conserve the resources of the Oregon communities that they visit and enjoy.