Salem is the state capital and an agricultural center. State government buildings dominate a small but attractive and progressive downtown core. Surrounding built-up areas are unremarkable. Local agriculture includes orchards, fruits, grapes, nursery stock, and vegetables; the type of agriculture and rolling, moist terrain make for an attractive landscape.
The area is close enough to Portland to enjoy some of its amenities and services while retaining a small-town flavor. Some residents commute north, particularly to high-tech sections south of Portland. While the state government lends some stability to the economy, and there is a trickle of new industry into the area, the economic outlook is not encouraging but has reversed declines in the past few years. While crime isn’t a huge problem, crime rates are high for the type of area. The winter climate is gloomy.
Salem is located in the middle of Willamette Valley some 60 air miles east of the Pacific Ocean. The valley is approximately 50 miles wide with the city about equidistant from the Coast Range on the west and the Cascade Range on the east. Land is rolling with flat valleys and a mix of woods and farmland. The climate is marine, and some of the heaviest yearly rainfall in the country, up to 170 inches, occurs in the mountains surrounding the city. The valley floor receives about 40 annual inches of rainfall, most occurring during winter. In the immediate area, measurable amounts of snow fall only 3 or 4 days a year. Summer days are typically sunny to partly cloudy and pleasant, while winter days are cold, cloudy, and damp, with few extremes in either season. First freeze is late October, last is early May.