Thousands of years before present
Native Americans inhabit the region we define as Oregon today. They trade extensively among tribes.

1700s
Spanish galleons explore the coast of Oregon.

1792
Captain Robert Gray enters the river we now call the Columbia, and names it after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva.

1804-1806
Captain Merriwether Lewis and William Clark travel with their party from Missouri to the mouth of the Columbia River.

1807
David Thompson, a British explorer and fur trader, is the first European to travel the length of the Columbia River.

1800s
Oregon’s streams, rivers, and lakes teem with fish and beaver. Commerce in beaver pelts attracts explorers, trappers, and traders to the region.

1833
The first shipment of Oregon timber to China.

1843
Civil government is established in the Oregon Country. Major immigration to Oregon begins along the Oregon Trail.

1846
Confident in the promising future of ocean shipping in Oregon’s early economy, the territorial legislature authorizes the appointment of the first pilot board.

1848
The Oregon Territory is organized. Gold is discovered in California.

1850
Steamboats Columbia and Lot Whitcomb begin regular service on the Columbia River.

1850s
Four water-powered mills and the first steam-powered mill are in operation in Oregon. Lumber is traded with China, Hawaii, and Australia.

Astoria becomes a great seaport, with salmon as key export.

1859
Congress ratifies the Oregon State Constitution, and the state accepts the congressional proposal to be admitted to the Union.

1860
John Ainsworth organizes the Oregon Steam Navigation Company.

1862
Congress passes the Homestead Act, granting 160 acres to those who would live on and work the land. Gold is discovered in eastern Oregon, in Baker and Grant counties.

1864
The first salmon cannery on the Columbia River begins production.

1873
Henry Villard creates the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company.

1878
The Northwest begins exporting wheat via the Columbia to world markets. Salmon canning increases from 10,000 cases in 1869 to 450,000 cases in 1878. Salmon ranks third in leading exports, after wheat and flour.

1880
New steamship Columbia with electric lights arrives in Portland.

1881
Lieutenant Thomas Symons makes a survey of the upper Columbia and proposes navigation improvements.

1883
The transcontinental railroad is completed. Columbia salmon catch peaks, begins decline from overfishing.

1886
Work begins on jetties at Columbia’s mouth.

1891
The Oregon Legislature declares the Port of Portland Oregon’s first formal public port authority. The shipping channel from Portland to the sea is dredged 25-feet deep, ensuring Portland’s place as an international seaport.

1910
Voters of Clatsop County approve formation of Astoria port district. Four years later, port construction begins.

1912
Railroad bypasses Gardiner, connecting to Florence.

1914
The Panama Canal opens for shipping.

1915
First scheduled vessel to load at the Port of Astoria arrives with a cargo of 500 tons of canned salmon destined for the East Coast.

1916
Coos Bay is selected as Southern Pacific Railroad terminal.

1917
The United States enters World War I.

1929
The Great Depression begins.

1930
The Port of Portland completes the first municipal airport on Swan Island. Charles Lindbergh flies the Spirit of St. Louis to Portland to dedicate the new airfield.

1932
Army Corps of Engineers submits its master plan to build 10 dams on the Columbia.

1933
Rock Island Dam, the first of the dams on the Columbia River Mainstem, is completed.

1938
Bonneville Dam, the furthest downstream of the mainstem dams on the Columbia, is completed.

1940
A new airport east of the city is built with Works Progress Administration assistance in Portland.

1941
Grand Coulee Dam is completed.

The United States enters World War II. Shipyards flourish in Astoria and Portland to aid the war effort.

1948
Vanport is destroyed in worst Columbia River flood.

1957
The Dalles Dam, which submerges the major Native American fishing area on the Columbia River– Celilo Falls– is completed.

1959
Morrow is created as Oregon’s newest port.

1960
Mechanization and modernization of machinery at the docks ends hand-loading work, reducing the regional employment of longshoremen.

1970
The National Environmental Policy Act is passed.

Trade represents 13% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

1973
Congress passes the Endangered Species Act.

1975
The last of the seven lock and dam systems goes into operation on the upper Columbia and Snake rivers, creating navigable water all the way to Lewiston, Idaho.

1976
A 40-foot shipping channel is completed from Portland to the Pacific Ocean, making this river system second only to the Mississippi in terms of national cargo volume.

1980
In May, Mt. St. Helens erupts, halting shipping and increasing dredging costs at the Port of Astoria.

1984
The largest floating dry dock in the Western Hemisphere opens in Portland, enabling the repair of super tankers involved in the Alaska oil trade.

1990s
Log exports decline rapidly, due to the Federal and State restrictions placed on raw timber exports. Port of Astoria diversifies by attracting other ship business, including dockside repair of large oil tankers, offshore fish processors, and fiber-optic cable laying ships.

1996
Trade represents 30% of US Gross Domestic Product ($2.3 trillion).

Today
The Port of Portland is the #1 wheat exporter in the country. Proposal to dredge Columbia River to 43 feet is scrutinized.