Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida
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Central Northwest Gold


On the eastern slopes of the great Cascade mountains is what appears like a quaint mountain town with lumber logging roots (and an old mill to boot) but a growth pattern like few other mountain towns anywhere in the US. Bend is the heart of Central Oregon and a city that would seem small and typical of any off-the-beaten-track mountain town but a closer look shows every modern convenience and the rich availability of a large city but with one lacking, sloppy or deficient areas (very minimal). All the big name stores are here and the downtown is a pleasantville indeed. Bend does not lack for quaint entertainment and as a retirement area it has grown in great abundance, style and money.

The history of Bend is a pivotal point in the early migration to Oregon of those horse and wagon settlers. The city name comes from a main Central Oregon crossing at the bend of the Deschutes River for settlers coming from the far east back in those wagon train days on the Oregon Trail. One of the main founders, Drake, started the main (now shut down) lumber mill and preserved a park riverside area that will rival riverwalks anywhere. It is the only town in the US with its own (volcanic) butte that is used for recreation and viewing from the center of the town. Two main US old style (two lane) highways cross in bend, 20 & 97, one of which is a main Central Oregon highway north and south and the other east and west. US 97 through Bend was turned into a 4 lane parkway not long ago and it is convenient and fast. Two mountain passes over the Cascades take you to either Eugene or Portland fairly quickly all year around. The unique settling history of Bend grew from 20,000 over 30 years ago to close to 100,000 today mostly coming from Californians with rich investments.

To most people their first visit to Bend will be memorable as the perception would be a fancy campsite area (like Yosemite) with large pine trees on every corner and yard and Sears, Home Depot and Cosco squeezed in among them. Bend is probably the closest city to the most spectacular natural sights of Oregon with Crater Lake not far to the South and Mt. Hood not far to the north and hundreds of lakes off several rivers in between. Klammath Falls Lake, the largest fresh water lake east of the Great Lakes is a ways to the south with a large floodland area for a multitude of wildlife. The Summers can be mildly hot but the nights always go below 70 F all year round. The winters are considered mild with some snow but it does not get too deep or last long. It can get pretty cold though going to the daytime 30s and sometimes but not often down to zero. Bend is considered a high desert climate and the humidity is definitely low and dry but as there are many micro-climates in Central Oregon the weather changes sometimes without warning but nothing wild like heavy rain or strong winds.

I found myself settling into an atypical rural life for my family just outside the city limits of Bend to tinker with farm animals and gardens with squirrels and other critters running up and down tall trees (not the chickens). I also found very friendly neighbors and townsfolk everywhere I went, not just some but all. Kindly, friendly people with heart. A rare find totally in these times. Although the cold takes some getting use to for me as a city dweller most of my life, the sight and smells of pine trees and rivers makes it all worth it to be here permanently all season. The best part is one minute you’re in the middle of a very modern city and the next you’re out in the middle of seeming pristine wilderness. If this is the desert, I’m in a paradise version of it for sure. A desert with lots of water always nearby. Did you know that chickens actually have a language? I got one hen that follows me everywhere and talks up a storm and so does the rooster too but for different reasons. He’s just jealous. I just stare him down and enjoy the trees.

Sent by David from Bend, Oregon

3 Responses to “Central Northwest Gold”

  1. Libby Says:

    It’s definitely refreshing to read about someone who is perfectly content where they live. It sounds like you’ve struck gold in Bend. (And you may want to consider writing something about that chicken language… that might be a gold mine too!)

  2. Matt Says:

    Bend is indeed lovely, and it is a wonderful place to visit. However, aside from the local service economy, supporting its tourist attractions, in the event of economic issues, the community lacks a diverse enough industry to keep people employed. Case and point, Bend’s current real estate market has taken quite a hit. Its local construction industry, along with many of its other small businesses, has taken quite a hit. One could cite Boise, Idaho as a very similar example. Moreover, Bend’s diversity, in spite of its mountain town aesthetic, isn’t very strong. There is little diversity in Bend. Certainly, there are some folks of different ethnicities and sexual preferences, but one would be hard-pressed to find diversity of any significance.

  3. Phoenix Mortgages Says:

    Ben is truly a beautiful place, I have some family there and have made the trip on a number of occasions. Best time to go is definetly during the summer.

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