A Civil War Guide for the Sophisticated Visitor: Five Little-Known Facts About Corvallis, Oregon


There are towns in this world that people dream of visiting. You know, Paris in the springtime. New York in the autumn. San Francisco in the summer. Eugene virtually anytime.

Then there’s Corvallis, whose town motto is the refreshingly candid, “It’s Never So Bad That It Couldn’t Be Worse.”

With a population of around 55,000 benighted souls (and Lord knows how many cows), Corvallis has four claims to fame: it is the Benton County seat, the home of a large Hewlett-Packard research campus (dedicated to coming up with a better printer ink cartridge – now there’s a growth industry); it is the westernmost city in the lower 48 with a population of over 50,000; and of course it is the home of Oregon State University. While perhaps none of these are sufficient to cause the average traveler’s heart to race while rushing to book a ticket, the fact the town is hosting tomorrow’s Civil War clash with the Oregon Ducks will certainly ensure a few hardy folks from The Outside will end up wandering through Corvallis’ mean streets prior to and immediately after the Ducks’ win. If you are one of them, read on. Here are five fascinating facts about Eugene’s little brother intended to make your visit at least tolerable:

Noon, Corvallis.


Noon, Corvallis.

1. Fog

In cities like London and San Francisco, fog is part of the local charm. In Corvallis, it simply adds to the already-depressing sense of doom that seems to permeate the town – especially this time of year (you know, January through November). We’re talking grim, gray, impenetrable walls of diesel-tinged mist, often making it near-impossible to find your car in the Taco Belle parking lot (Corvallis’ premier restaurant). Justifiably famous for its remarkably bad drivers, the Corvallis fog adds appreciably to the mayhem. Be careful out there.

2. “Heart of the Valley”

Salem 1, Corvallis 0.


Salem 1, Corvallis 0.

The town was originally called “Marysville,” named, a gentleman who I once met at either Squirrel’s Tavern or the Suds & Suds assured me, after a lady who ran a sawmill/brothel where the river named after her (that would be the Mary) flows into the Willamette, back in the 1840s. In 1853, the legislative assembly renamed the place Corvallis, from the Latin phrase cor vallis, meaning either “rotten to the core,” or “heart of the valley” — linguists are divided on that. The town served as capital of the Oregon Territory for approximately 23 minutes in 1855, until legislators came to their senses and hastily switched to Salem (an only slightly less boring town 48 miles to the north, whose only real virtue is that it is linked to Eugene and Portland via what we commonly refer to as a “road,” unlike the game trails that connect civilization with “the Heart of the Valley”).

3. Demographics

White person

A Corvallis female. Who can blame her?

At last count there were 137 people of color living in Corvallis. Seriously, according to the 2010 Census, almost 90% of the population is White. This is an even higher percentage of White people than, say, Disneyland or Opryland USA (which, as I type I realize reminds me a great deal of Corvallis, without the music and excellent BBQ of course). Corvallis boasts more men than women, a fact the casual Civil War traveler will find unsurprising as he or she scans the crowd outside Reser Stadium prior to kickoff. I mean, really – would you want to be a woman and live in Corvallis?

4. Is There a God?




Believe it or not, Benton County – and remember, Corvallis is the county seat – is the least religious county per capita in the United States. It is speculated that this may be attributed to the popularity of, shall we say, “less common” religions not listed in the survey that resulted in Benton County winning the nation’s religious booby prize. “Religions” like the Church of Ed Wood (an internet-based church – they only have dial-up in Corvallis, but apparently that’s enough for Woodies) – that follows the inspirational teachings of late cult film director Ed Wood. Or Apatheism, a religious practice nurtured by most Beavers fans, embracing apathy as a way of life. Then there’s The Church of All Worlds, a neo-pagan religion founded in 1962 by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and his wife Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. Need I say more? In Corvallis, Scientology, complete with inter-galactic leader Xenu, fleets of DC-8-like spaceships, hydrogen bombs in volcanoes, and “soul traps,” is considered mainstream. Having said this, I understand even Tom Cruise refuses to visit.

5. The Clonal Germplasm Repository

Fun for the entire family.


Fun for the entire family.

To be honest, there are more than a few Oregonians who believe Corvallis has little to offer the visitor. Well, to them I say, you clearly have never seen the Peavy Arboretum, visited the majestic Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, or taken in the Clonal Germplasm Repository, purported to be a gene bank for the United States Department of Agriculture, but according to both Xenu and Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, is something far scarier and more sinister – a terrific place to take the kids before hitting the scintillating tailgating scene outside Reser.

So there you have it. If you do intend to make the trek to Corvallis, I hope this helps make your visit more enjoyable. Having been to Corvallis myself – once – I intend to watch the game from the relative safety of my rec room, wearing my Xenu tunic and munching on genetically modified nacho chips.

I thank Ed Wood I’m from Eugene. Go Ducks.

Top photo by www.corvallisadvocate.com

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Randy Morse

Randy Morse

Randy Morse (Editor and Writer) is a native Oregonian, a South Eugene High and U of O grad (where he played soccer for the Ducks, waaay back in ’70-‘71). After his doctoral work at the University of Alberta he launched a writing & publishing career – that plus his love of mountaineering has taken him all over the world. An award-winning artist, musician, broadcaster, and author, he’s written 8 books – his writing on media & democracy earned him the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting’s 2014 Dalton Camp Award. He swears he taught LaMarcus Aldridge his patented fade-way jump shot, and is adamant that if he hadn’t left the country (and was a foot taller) he would be the owner of a prosperous chain of fast food outlets and a member of the NBA Hall of Fame by now. If there is a more rabid Ducks fan in the known universe, this would come as a major surprise to Morse’s long-suffering family. He resides in the tiny alpine village of Kaslo, British Columbia.

  • Douglas Fur ’74

    I noticed the skunk cabbage in your lead photo. They’re such a pretty yellow and green when blooming in spring. I think they should be the official flower of the Duck’s. Not that I’m a Beaver fan but because they’re an Oregon thing, like banana slugs.

  • P.Otter

    yeaaaah ’cause Cor’s “big brother” is so awesome, with it’s depressing over abundant homeless population, and sketchy skaters. At least Corvallis has the Darkside theatre and Bald Hill Park. It’s also been named in the top twenty best cities in the nations and in the end, Beavers are much cooler animals than ducks anyway. quack quack shut up.

  • Jeremiah

    Face it. Eugene is a glorified strip mall on a freeway smelling of slack water and mill effluence. It’s downtown, if one wants to call it that, rivals that of Modesto on a gloomy day. Its saving grace is that once one gets past the expanse of trailer parks and heads away from the town, there are some nice country roads with beautiful views and parks with things to do.