Central Oregon's largest city (est. pop. 57,750) has a lot to offer — from a sunny climate, to outdoor recreation, to cultural amenities. It's a fun, healthy place to live, as the thousands of people flocking here every year will attest.
Maybe it's something in the mountain air, but Bend has always attracted men and women of ambition and adventure, from Scandinavian mill workers who ski jumped off Pilot Butte to the current wave of have-laptop-will-travel urban transplants.
Bend is bisected by the Deschutes River and marks on the transition between the ponderosa-covered east slope of the Cascades and the juniper-and-sage High Desert.
The banks of the river were a gathering spot for the tribes, and a watering hole for pioneers, who called the kink in the river "Farewell Bend," the last stop before hitting the mountain trails.
When the city was incorporated in 1905, it had a population of 500. The coming of the railroad hastened the start of two huge pine sawmills on either side of the river on the south edge of town. For decades, Bend was a rough-hewn mill town that prospered and suffered with the fortunes of that boom-and-bust industry.
But a number of visionary leaders realized that the timber industry would not sustain the city forever. They began to develop Bend's small tourism trade into a resort industry, which took a leap with the establishment of Mount Bachelor ski area in the 1970s.
When the big timber bust came in the 1980s, Bend was hit hard. But it bounced back harder, fueled by the visitor industry and a new wave of retirees and lifestyle refugees from larger cities.
Bend has a thriving downtown district, well-loved Drake Park, and many long-time residents, businesses and institutions. The timber industry, apart from a few small operations, has been replaced by a more diversified job base that includes tourism, retail trade, services, health care, niche manufacturers and technology.
Bend is a city of newcomers, where tenure of more than a decade may label you an "old timer." Those people, often retirees and refugees from West Coast cities, have brought new ideas, new energy and new prosperity to their new home.
More population growth and several huge projects have further changed Bend's face. The Bend Parkway now provides a speedy north-south route through town. The Old Mill District, an utterly original mixed-use development on the former Brooks-Scanlon plant site, is home to upscale shops like Banana Republic and Victoria's Secret, plus an outdoor amphitheater that's home to free summer Sunday concerts and other entertainment.
Demographics and Crime