The used-car lots and fast-food outlets encountered on the way into Salem off I-5 contrast with the inspiring murals and displays in the capitol, where it is comforting to be reminded of Oregon’s pioneer tradition and proud legacy of progressive legislation.
Close by, the tranquil beauty and stimulating museums of historic Willamette University also provide a break from the carbon-copy drabness of a town dominated by gray buildings housing the state’s bureaucracies.
The Kalapuyan name for the locality of Salem was Chemeketa, or “Place of Rest.” Connotations of repose were also captured by the Methodist missionary name Salem, an anglicized form of the Arabic salaam and the Hebrew shalom, meaning “peace.” The surrounding croplands along with Willamette River transport and waterpower quickly enabled Salem to become the New Jerusalem envisioned by Oregon Trail pioneers.
Over the years, the city forged an economic destiny in government, food processing, light manufacturing, and wood products. Today, it has a population of about 153,000.
Getting to Salem
Salem provides a lot of ways to get in and out of town. Greyhound (450 NE Church St., 503/362-2428) runs about five buses a day through Salem. Amtrak (13th St. and Oak St., 503/588-1551 or 800/872-7245) sits across from Willamette University and is close to Mission Mill Museum.
The Salem airport (503/588-6314) is a few miles east of downtown. A Salem-to-Portland airport shuttle is run by Hut Limousine Service (503/364-4444, www.portlandairportshuttle.com, $35 one way).
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel