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Some of the country's most creative chefs are calling Oregon their home while winning awards internationally. They're drawn to the Pacific Northwest because of the natural market of fresh produce, seafood, nuts, wines, beers and berries.
Mushrooms: Rare trumpet-shaped chanterelles grow in foggy forests. Also found are shiitake, enoki, lobster and oyster mushrooms and gourmet morels. Falls City hosts a Mushroom Festival each year in celebration of local mushroom gathering. The United States Forest Service issues thousands of permits for the rare matsutake on the eastern slope of the Cascade Range.
Apples, Pears & Cherries: From along the Columbia Gorge in Hood River and Southwest Oregon apples and pears are shipped around the world. Oregon specializes in green Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Red Rome Beauty and Golden Delicious apples. Bosc, Red Blushed Comice, Nelis and Seckel pears contribute to Oregon's ranking as the third largest producer of pears nationally. Bing cherries, (named for a Chinese gardener who cultivated a large experimental fruit tree estate outside of Portland), can be found throughout western Oregon in the early summer.
Maraschino cherries got their start in Oregon when a special preserving process was developed at Oregon State University in Corvallis. After Royal Anne cherries are cured and colored, they are pitted and canned with a special process. The cherries derive their distinctive flavor from the maraschino plant, a native of Italy, and are correctly pronounced "mar-a-skeen-o."
Wine: Oregon's grape harvest, called "the crush," takes place in early fall. Wine making is a large, emerging industry in Oregon, growing from a handful of vineyards in the mid-1960s to more than 100 currently. The long moderate growing season in the Willamette Valley in Washington and Yamhill counties, and the latitudinal location shared with the wine-growing areas of France have proven fertile ground for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewurtztraminer. Wine makers in Oregon are staunch entrepreneurs who are proud of the distinct tastes of each winery. Wine-tasting rooms are open year round in most areas, and wineries host many open house events throughout the year.
Seafood: Dungeness crab, weighing in at about three pounds, is considered a delicacy and chefs tend to respect its stand-alone flavor. Other options on menus found around the state include salmon (usually Chinook, which is a staple of Northwest cuisine), oysters, scallops, shrimp and lots of fish varieties ranging from sturgeon and halibut to freshwater trout.
Produce: Roadside fruit stands and farmer's markets may be found on many backroads in the summer. Melons and potatoes indigenous to northeast Oregon can be found among huge wheat fields. Vegetables such as asparagus, rhubarb, corn, organic herbs, beans and gathered greens may be found in the Willamette Valley.
Berries: Cobblers, compotes and jams are a mainstay of Oregonians' diets. Raspberries, blackberries, huckleberries, blueberries, strawberries and gooseberries contribute to Oregon's number one ranking in production of U.S. berries. Cranberries grown on Oregon's south coast are prized for their deep color.
Native Foods: The basic food groups have been in Oregon a long time and the Pacific Northwest Native Americans continue to hunt and gather seasonal foods. Today they still celebrate with root, huckleberry and salmon feasts.
With names such as Devil's Punch Bowl, Cape Perpetua, Cape Foulweather and Deception Bay, it's not difficult to imagine why the lure of the headlands along Oregon's coast has drawn curious visitors for centuries.
History: The Plains Indians, never having seen it, referred to the ocean in legend as "The River with No Shore." When Sacajawea, Lewis and Clark's Shoshone guide, first laid eyes on the Pacific Ocean, she vowed to tell the tribe that their legend was indeed true. One Clatsop Indian legend says this rough-hewn coastline was created by chunks of molten rock thrown into the water below by Talapus, or Coyote, the trickster god who stood at the top of Neahkahnie Mountain (located on the north Oregon Coast). Today Oregon's rugged shoreline waters continue to boil and churn as testament to ancient lore.
In 1913, Governor George Oswald declared Oregon's beaches public property. Nearly 400 miles of coastline is open to public access year round. The terrain varies from huge monoliths standing off the coast, to sand dunes of 40 miles in length and more than 550 feet tall, to long, wide-open stretches of sand, trimmed by wind-carved spruce and fir trees. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is located between Florence and Coos Bay on the central coast and covers 32,000 acres. Haystack Rock is one of the world's largest monoliths at 235 feet high and is located at Cannon Beach on the north coast. The world's littlest harbor is Depoe Bay, also on the north coast, at only 50 feet wide at its mouth to the Pacific Ocean.
Lighthouses: Ten lighthouses dot the Oregon coast. Cape Blanco Lighthouse was activated in 1870 on the southern shoreline and continues to shine its beacon, which can be seen for 22 miles. Throughout the past century the lighthouse keepers themselves have added their own personality to this masonry sentinel. Among the most colorful was James Langlois, whose dedication to keeping ships safe in the area of the Cape Blanco Lighthouse lasted 42 years.
Dangerous Waters: Between 1725 and 1961 there were more than 200 shipwrecks in the vicinity of the Columbia River, on Oregon's northernmost coast. Fragments of the most visible wrecks in the United States can be seen just offshore. On October 25, 1906, the Peter Iredale, a 2,000-ton cargo ship, ran into dense fog and zero visibility at the mouth of the Columbia. Driving winds snapped the ship's masts as the helpless freighter was tossed about and ultimately driven ashore. Today, the rusted iron frame of the Iredale is all that remains of this once magnificent vessel. Bandon, a small southern coast community, calls itself the "Storm Watching Capital of the World" and offers a storm watchers club with weekly programs January through April.
Food: The Tillamook County Creamery Association produces cheddar cheese and ice cream on the north end of the coast and Bandon Cheese Factory produces cheddar on the south end of the coast. Both offer tasting rooms. Cranberries are harvested from bogs in Bandon, one of the largest producers of cranberries in the world. More than 100 local growers produce more than 180,000 barrels a year. Several award-winning restaurants and small shops dot the Oregon coast featuring a multitude of seafoods (especially clam chowder, crab and salmon) as well as saltwater taffy and cranberry sweets.
Shopping: The Oregon Coast lures artists representing many disciplines. Glass-blowers, potters, weavers, painters and woodcrafters all contribute to creating a charming one-of-a-kind shopping atmosphere. The Spin Sock, a form of the windsock, was invented in Lincoln City and may be found in dozens of kite shops all along the coast. In Lincoln City alone, there are 32 antique shops.
Architecture: Astoria, on the north coast, displays the stature of a Scandinavian town founded in the 1880s. Ornate Victorian homes in vibrant ice cream colors may be found in Astoria. One of Astoria's most famous and easily recognized Victorians is the Flavell House; Clatsop County's first millionaire, Captain George Flavell, commissioned this early example of Italianate architecture in 1884.
Whale Watching: It's the winter coast sport. Gray whales migrate along the shores of the Oregon coast from December through April, although there is often a pod that stays off shore year round. There are dozens of whale watching viewpoints off the Oregon Coast as well as whale watching tours by charter boat. Day and half-day tours are available and visitors are advised to bring cameras, windbreakers and motion sickness medication.
Jet-boating: Taking off from the mouth of the Rogue River on the Southern Oregon coast, guides take visitors up scenic canyons and rapids to view black bears, bald eagles, otters and blacktail deer. The Rogue River was one of the original eight rivers included in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.
Fishing: World-class salmon, steelhead and sturgeon may be found on the rivers flowing into the Pacific Ocean.
Sea Lion Caves: The caves are the only mainland shelter for Steller sea lions and are located north of Florence on the Central Oregon coast. The cavern also houses wild sea birds, including the guillemot, a rare pigeon.