Date of visit: October 1, 2011
Population: 76,639 (2010 Census)
Incorporated in 1905, Bend is the sixth largest city in Oregon and the largest city east of the Cascades, although as with any big western city it started out as a small frontier village in the 1870s. The name comes from Farewell Bend, which was used to describe a point along the Deschutes River where travelers on the pioneer stage road bade farewell to the river as they journeyed west. Upstream and downstream of this spot the river travels through a canyon where fording is difficult, but the spot where Bend now sits provided an accessible crossing. The Warm Springs name for this fordable spot on the river was “Wychick.”
For awhile in the early years, Bend seemed to suffer an identity crisis. Because the name “Farewell Bend” was already taken by a post office along the Snake River, the community that grew up along the Deschutes River became known as “Bend.” For a short while between January 1903 and March 1904 it was changed to “Deschutes” and then the post office reversed the name back to “Bend.” Other names that were unsuccessfully tried at some point were “Pilot Butte” (the name of the prominent hill in town) and “Statts” (the name of the old stage office).
Bend doesn’t suffer from an identity crisis these days. Although winters are much colder than in the Willamette Valley on the other side of the mountains, Bend gets more than 300 days of sunshine a year (not the same as 300 sunny days, incidentally). It’s close proximity to summer hiking and biking trails and winter skiing makes it a popular vacation destination, and tourism is one of the biggest industries in Bend.