The Willamette Valley is the political heart of the state of Oregon and home to approximately 70% of the state’s population. Geographically, it runs north for 150 miles from the Calapooya Mountains in the south and is surrounded by the Cascade Range to the east and the Oregon Coast Range to the west. Although most of the Portland metropolitan area is in the Willamette Valley, it is covered separately in the Portland Metropolitan Region.
Two of the six largest cities in Oregon are in the Willamette Valley: our state capital Salem (population 173,442), and Eugene (population 171,245). These cities are each part of larger metropolitan areas, the second and third largest in the state respectively. The Willamette Valley is the home to the oldest university in the state, Willamette University in Salem, as well as two of the largest universities in the state, the University of Oregon in Eugene and Oregon State University in Corvallis. It also has Western Oregon University in Monmouth and a number of community colleges and small Christian colleges.
In the 1820s the Willamette Valley was advertised as the “promised land of flowing milk and honey” and was the destination of choice for those coming across from the East on the Oregon Trail. Today, major crops of hazelnuts, hops, greenhouse and nursery stock, grass seed, Christmas trees, and various berries are grown on this fertile agricultural land. The Willamette Valley is also known as “Oregon Wine Country” with more than 19,000 acres of vineyards and over 250 wineries.
This region has 20 of our diocese’s churches, from small (St. David’s in Drain or Christ the King in Stayton) to large (St. Paul’s in Salem or St. Mary’s in Eugene)
Western Oregonians and tourists enjoy numerous activities available in the Willamette Valley. Festivals include Oktoberfest in Mt. Angel and the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival every spring in Woodburn. In Eugene, the Oregon Bach Festival takes place annually and Corvallis is known for Da Vinci Days, an arts and science festival. Another highlight is the Oregon Garden, an 80 acre botanical garden in Silverton.