REGION 8: HISTORY: (The Pacific Northwest) Fun Facts


Washington * Oregon * Idaho * Northern California 

It’s hard to believe that you can drive from the peaks of the Grand Tetons to the Washington State rainforest coastline in just 16 hours!

Sol Duc Falls Cover

The Pacific Northwest is an area like no other. It is home to North America’s only true rain forest and is packed with national forests.  There you’ll find giant cypress, spruce and redwood trees large enough to drive through! Washington’s northern coast boasts of some of the most beautiful seascapes in the country and Oregon’s coast offers gorgeous sunsets, the largest stretch of coastal sand dunes in North America, whale migration routes, many lighthouses and the world’s largest sea caves that you can actually go down into and hang out with hundreds of sea lions. Enjoy the Redwoods of Northern California and the fertile valleys of some of the world’s best wineries in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.

 This area is often referred to as ‘Cascadia’

For our ‘Focused Events’ we’ll spend most of our time between the years 1849 and 1950.

We’ll call this the: ‘Age of Migration and Resources.’



 *Migration was a key element in the history of the Pacific Northwest.

Initially, the Pacific NW Coast is inhabited by Native American Tribes. The Aboriginal population was estimated at over 300,000 with over 1,000 tribes speaking 60 languages.

*1540’s: Spanish immigrants begin settlements.

*1770’s: The Spanish establish Missions.

*1778: English merchants arrive.

*1790-1795: The Naturalization Act establishes a process for becoming a naturalized United States citizen. It is restricted to “free white persons who reside in the United States for five years and renounce their allegiance to their former country.”

*1798:  The Alien and Sedition Acts permit the President to deport any foreigner deemed to be dangerous. A revised Naturalization Act imposes a 14-year residency requirement for prospective citizens.  Congress reduced that requirement to 5 yrs in 1802.

*1804: Trappers, settlers and traders flood into the Pacific NW thanks to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

*1808: Importation of slaves into the U.S. becomes prohibited.

*1820’s: Chinese immigrants make their way into the U.S.

*1821: Mexico wins its independence from Spain and starts trade and immigration with the U.S.

*1840’s: Mass immigration from Ireland, Germany and Western Europe begins due to famine and failed revolutions.

*1846: The U.S. conquers California, Northern Mexico, New Mexico and Texas.

*1848: The California Gold Rush brings in many seeking better lives.

*1849: Chilean miners immigrate.

*1855: Blacks in California organize to campaign against disenfranchisement.

*1868: Japanese immigrants arrive in Hawaii.

*1880’s: Mass migration from Portugal, Spain, Greece and Russia.


*Aside from the obvious natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the inevitable tourism that has followed, this region is vital to the economy of the U.S. with some significant resource contributions:



*The Nez Pearce Tribe managed the forests and used lumber to create canoes and dwellings.  They also initiated controlled burns to encourage the growth of berries and other food.

*1828: The Hudson Bay Company opened the first mill at Ft. Vancouver in Washington sparking the ‘Timber Rush’ of the 1800’s.5

*Nearly 79 million hectares had been logged by 1970 devastating the forests and eradicating almost half of the local species of trees.

*1833: First lumber export is shipped to China.


*1908: The WFPA (Washington Forest Protection Agency) was founded, and is now managing the forests in a sustainable manner.

*About 2/3rds of all U.S. forested land is timberland, and 3.5-7 billion trees are cut down each year.



*1910: Seattle’s first airplane takes flight.

*1916: Timber baron, William Boeing incorporates Boeing Airplane Co. and bases it in Seattle.

*Washington now manufactures 90% of all commercial aircraft in the U.S.

*Boeing now employs over 135,000 people and includes over 1,400 companies in its supply chain.

*Boeing leads the U.S. in experimental flight, space exploration, and aviation biofuel.





*Early 1800’s: Salmon population was in the millions.  Now, the population is less than half that number.

*1866: First cannery opens in Oregon, and production of canned salmon, sturgeon and other fish begins.

*Late 1880’s: Commercial fishing reaches its sustainable peak, producing more than 42 million pounds of canned fish.

*The Columbia River is the largest river in the American west and contains the largest number and variety of salmon.  There is growing concern that the salmon have become genetically altered and might struggle to survive global climate changes.

*Fishing in the Northwest covers water stretching from the tropical Pacific to the Bering Sea, harvesting millions of tons of fish and shellfish each year.  Annual revenues are in the billions of dollars.

*The fishing industry employs more than 150,000 people in the Pacific Northwest.

Hydroelectric Power:

*1895: The first hydroelectric generator at Niagara Falls in NY produces alternating current from a design by Nikola Tesla.

*1908: The first electric generating plant is built on the Columbia River at Priest Rapids by Hanford Irrigation & Power Co.

*1920:  The Federal Water Power Act of 1920 authorizes the first Federal Power Commission, and began issuing licenses for hydroelectric projects.

*1930: States in the Pacific Northwest approve laws creating PUD (People’s Utilities District) which assures benefits to the citizens from the newly forming hydroelectric facilities.

*Between the early 1930’s and the early 1970’s there have been approximately 134 hydroelectric power plants built in the Pacific Northwest.

*Built in 1933-1942, the Grand Coulee Dam in WA has the capacity to provide more power than any other dam in North America, and employs over 6000 people alone. It was constructed with enough concrete to build a highway from Seattle to Miami.

*About 80% of the electric power in the Northwest comes from hydroelectric plants.  This type of power is a low cost form of energy and accounts for Northwest residents having the lowest energy bills in the country.10

*About 20% of the world’s electricity is generated by hydropower.

*The Columbia River Basin provides more than 40% of total U.S. hydroelectric generation.

*Hydropower is clean, renewable, low cost, and produces no harmful effects in the environment.

*The hydropower industry employs approximately 200,000-300,000 people.



*Agriculture is one of the most important industries in the Pacific Northwest.

*In Eastern Washington, family wheat farms have created over 25,000 jobs and create a trade surplus for the state.  Washington is also a leader in the production of apples, grapes, cranberries, barley and lentils.

11*Oregon has a $5 billion+ agricultural trade that ranks first in the nation in production of dozens of different types of produce, including berries, onions, nuts and Christmas trees.

*Idaho is known for its seed industry. The state is responsible for over 80% of the sweet corn seed grown worldwide.

*California is an agricultural superpower in the world market with an annual 2.66 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  It is responsible for over 12% of all of the agricultural production in the U.S. and generates an average of 48 billion in yearly revenue for the state.

*Early-Mid 1800’s: Settlers move into the Pacific Northwest realizing its beauty and suitability for farming and ranching.

*Early settlers did not understand that Native Indian Tribes had been conditioning the land with fire for centuries.

*Annually, Indians created low-intensity controlled burns that suppressed the underbrush and made the land suitable for hunting, gathering, and farming.

*Conflicts arose between the natives and the pioneers who sought to suppress the fires, and new ways of conditioning the land had to be introduced.  Without the fires, the land became depleted and eventually irrigation, fertilization, pest control and crop rotation was introduced.



1). WASHINGTON: Motto: “By and By”

*1543: Pacific Northwest claimed by Spain.

*1759: Washington coast claimed by Great Britain.

*1592: Strait of Juan de Fuca and Olympic Mtns. discovered.

*1775: Washington claimed for Spain.

*1778: British explorer James Cook explores and charts Pacific NW.

*1792: British explorer G. Vancouver names Puget Sound.

*1792: Spain establishes the first non-Indian settlement in Washington at Neah Bay.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA*1803-1805: Lewis and Clark explore Washington.

*1807: Formal mapping of Columbia River completed.

*1824: War Dept. sets up Bureau of Indian Affairs.

*1831: Dept. of the Interior sets up Dept. of Indian Affairs.

*1851: First settlers arrive in Seattle.

*1853: Washington established as a Territory.

*1858: The first NW Railroad, the Cascade Railroad, begins operation in the Colombia River Gorge.

*1860’s: Gold and silver discovered in Okanogan.

*1883: The Northern Pacific completes service to Tacoma.

*1886: Roslyn coal mining town established.

*1889: Washington is the 42nd State to join the Union.

*1897-99: Klondike Gold Rush brings thousands to Seattle.

*1900: Logging begins in Western Washington.

*1909 – Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle to showcase the Northwest’s bounty of natural resources.

*1916: Boeing Company established near Seattle.

*1933: FDR introduces ‘New Deal’ programs and begins work on the Coulee Dam.

*1934: Indian Reorganization Act sets up Tribal Business Councils and promotes the return of communal ownership of reservation lands.

*1937: Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam completed.

*1957: Washington Public Power Supply System (WPSS) created to develop Washington’s energy resources.12

*1957: Microsoft founded.

*1980: Eruption of Mt St Helen’s volcano.



2). OREGON: Motto: “She flies with her own wings”

*1738: Under French leadership, Oregon is explored by the 1st Euro-American expedition into the area.

*1765: First know use of name Oregon or Ouragon.

*1778: First Oregon map published.

*1788: First person of African descent to set foot in Oregon.

*1792: Vancouver maps the northwest coast.

*1811: First permanent white settlement established by John J. Astor’s Fur Co at Fort Astoria.

P1070046*1818 & 1827: U.S. & Great Britain form Joint-Occupancy treaties.

*1822: William Ashley discovers central route to Pacific.

*1824: Russia cedes Northwest Territory to U.S. in a treaty.

*1828: Hudson Bay Co leads fur trapping expeditions into what they referred to as ‘Snake Country’.

*1829: First wagon trains take the Oregon Trail into the Rocky Mountains.

*1834-1837: Multiple missions established in Oregon.

*1844: Exclusion law passed that prevented blacks from living in the Oregon Territory but was repealed in 1845.

*1846: Applegate Trail blazed as alternative to Oregon Trail

*1849: Oregon established as a Territory.

*1849: A new exclusion law was passed that allowed blacks living in the Territory to remain, but new ones to be blocked.

*1850: Mail service established from San Francisco.

*1851: Jacob Vanderpool, a saloonkeeper from Salem, becomes the only person known to have been kicked out of the Oregon Territory because he was black.

*1854: Oregon’s Exclusion law is repealed.

*1859: Oregon become the 33rd state admitted to the Union, and the first with an exclusion law written into the state constitution that was not overturned until 1927.

*1869: Union and Pacific Railroads connect in Promontory.P1070079

*1870: Black men given the right to vote in Oregon.

*1911: Oregon becomes first state to hold primary elections.

*1937: Bonneville Dam completed on Columbia River.

*1939: Tillamook Burn destroyed 190,000 acres of forest

*1966: Astoria Bridge connects Washington and Oregon.


3). IDAHO: “Let it be perpetual”

*1743: Discovery of the Rocky Mountains near Yellowstone Park made while in search of a western sea.

*1805: Lewis and William Clark discover Idaho at Lemhi Pass, and cross into north Idaho over the Lolo Trail.

*1809: Northwest Fur Trading Co establishes first trading post near Lake Pend Oreille.

*1824: Russia cedes Northwest Territory to U.S. in a treaty.

*1839: Henry Spalding starts publishing the Bible in Lapwai on the earliest printing press in the Pacific Northwest.

*1839: Chief Timothy, first native Christian leader, baptized.

*1840: First Catholic missionary work begins in Idaho.

*1842: Jesuit Coeur d’ Alene Mission of the Sacred Heart near Saint Maries established and transferred in 1877 to Desmet where it stands today.

*1843: Oregon Trail blazed through Idaho.

*1848: Oregon Territory established.id1

*1862: Gold discovered near Warren.

*1863: Mining begins in the Owyhees.

*1865: Boise becomes the Capitol.

*1889: State constitution adopted.

*1890: Idaho become the 43rd state admitted to the Union.

*1890: Congress passes Federal Forest Reserve Act.

*1892: Timber and Stone Act passes Congress, paving way for commercial timber industry.

*1893: The “Panic of ’93” causes lead and silver prices to collapse.  Coeur d’Alene mines shut down.

*1894: Congress passes Carey Act, making possible the reclamation of Snake River Valley.

*1901: Swan Falls hydroelectric plant completed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*1905: Milner Dam-first of Idaho’s 37 Dams, completed.

*1906: Largest saw mill in U.S. opens in Potlatch.

*1913: Public Utilities Commission established.

*1920: Idaho Wheat Growers Association formed.

*1934: Idaho becomes first in nation in silver production.

*1951: First Atomic power produced at EBR1 near Arco.

*1976: Teton Dam collapses forcing 300,000 to evacuate.


4). NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: “I have found it”

*1535-1542: Spanish are first Europeans on CA soil.

*1579: Sir Francis Drake claims land north of San Francisco for England.P1060665

*1769: First of many Spanish missions established.

*1769: Discovery of the entrance to the San Francisco Bay.

*1776: Presidio of San Francisco founded.

*1812: Russian fur traders establish Ft Ross in Sonoma Cty.

*1820: First settlers from the East Coast arrive.

*1821: California becomes part of Mexico.

*1846: U.S. invades Mexico reaching San Diego.

*1848: California is ceded by Mexico to the U.S.

*1849: California gold Rush begins at Coloma.

*1850: California becomes 31st state admitted to the Union.

*1860: Pony Express mail service established from MO.

*1869: The Railroad reaches San Francisco.

*1882: In the 1840s-1850s, California recruited Chinese workers for the mining, railroad and agricultural industries.  As the economy got shaky, the U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 that lasted 60 years.

*1892:  The Sierra Club is founded by 182 charter members. John Muir is elected president. In its first conservation effort, the Sierra Club leads a campaign to defeat a proposed reduction in the boundaries of Yosemite National Park.

*1900: Oil discovered along Kern River.

*1901: Union Labor Party is established in San Francisco.

*1910: Angel Island established for immigration.

*1933: Alcatraz is established as a prison.13

*1936: San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge completed.

*1937: The Golden Gate Bridge is completed.

*1942: Japanese moved to U.S. internment camps.

*1968: Redwood National Park established.


Armed with a little information, any trip into the Pacific Northwest can be an experience you’ll never forget!




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