Oakridge, Oregon

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Oakridge is a city in Lane County, Oregon, United States. The population was estimated at 3,221 in 2009. It is located directly west of Westfir on Oregon Route 58, about 40 miles east of Eugene, and 150 miles southeast of Portland. Surrounded by National Forest, Oakridge is popular with outdoor enthusiasts for its hiking, mountain biking, wildflowers, fly-fishing, birding, watersports, and nearby Willamette Pass ski area.



The area now known as Oakridge was first explored in 1852 as a possible route for pioneers coming from Central Oregon to the Willamette Valley. In 1912, a new community was formed and officially named Oakridge. Since its beginnings as a mountain ranch, Oakridge has been a railroad boomtown, a lumberjacks' haven,[3] and an outdoor enthusiast's destination.

The early boom for Oakridge can be attributed to Southern Pacific Railroad. By 1910, work had already begun on Tunnel 22, a short route to connect Oakridge to the area now known as Westfir. Once up and running, the railroad played an integral part of the economy and lifestyle in Oakridge. By the late 1970s, however, the railroad had stopped its regular service in Oakridge and the depot was torn down. Today, Union Pacific Railroad operates the rails, and trains are still a common sight in Oakridge.[4]

On July 2, 1946, Pope and Talbot Lumber Company purchased timberland near Oakridge. By 1948, the company built a large sawmill in Oakridge and had began a massive timber logging operation. While the railroad and Westfir's Hines sawmill began to slow down, the Pope and Talbot mill expanded and eventually employed more than 500 people. The combined economic base of the railroad and sawmills accounted for the population growth of the 1960s and '70s. However, in 1978 the Hines Mill in Westfir closed, and by 1985 the Pope and Talbot Mill had laid off all of its workers. The City of Oakridge now owns the property that formerly housed the Pope and Talbot sawmill.[5]

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