Benton County

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Benton County lies about 30 miles inland from Oregon's ragged and beautiful Pacific coast in the heart of Willamette Valley. Almost midway between Salem and Eugene, it's a great place to call home. Whether you prefer a more urban environment, a smaller town, or outright countryside, you can find it here. The valley is home to notable vineyards, more than 50 covered bridges, and numerous public gardens. The county has the oldest continuously operating courthouse west of the Mississippi.

Benton County: A Snapshot

Home to the cities of Corvallis (population 50,000) and Philomath (population 4,000), Benton County encompasses about 676 square miles, 500 acres of which are the Oregon State University campus. Benton, like all of Willamette Valley counties, is densely populated by Oregon standards. The U.S. census estimate for its greater population in 2003 came to just under 80,000, making it the state's largest.

The racial/ethnic picture in Benton County is predominantly Caucasian, 89.2 percent. The two most significant minorities are Asian (4.5 percent) and Hispanic (4.7 percent). Residents are solidly educated. Most, approximately 93 percent, have graduated from high school. Nearly 48 percent have graduated from college. The median household income is about $43,000. Home ownership--census figures cite just over 33,000 residential dwellings--is about 57 percent.

The Siuslaw National Forest and the William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge lie within county limits, as do the Paul Dunn State Forest and the E.E. State Game Management Area. The Jackson-Frazier Wetlands area, which encompasses 144 acres, offers several wetland ecosystems--prairie, emergent, and cattail--and more than 300 species of flowering plants, including several rare and federally listed ones. Fort Hoskins (1856-1865) Historic Park, bought by the county in 1991, is largely wooded. One goal of the park is to restore the native oak savannah.

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