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40 miles S of Salem, 45 miles N of Eugene, 55 miles E of Newport

In Latin, Corvallis means "heart of the valley," and that is exactly where this college town is located. Set in the middle of the Willamette Valley and surrounded by farmlands, Corvallis is home to Oregon State University (OSU), a noted center for agricultural research. Life in this town revolves around the university, but the lively downtown, with its riverfront setting, makes this a pleasant base for exploring nearby wine country and the historic town of Albany. Numerous walking and bicycling paths add to the appeal of a stay here.

In addition to being home to OSU, Corvallis is at the center of the Willamette Valley's grass-seed fields. Area farms produce much of the nation's grass-seed crop. Visitors should note that in late summer, after the seed has been harvested, the remaining stubble has traditionally been burned off. The field burnings can blanket the valley with dense black smoke, making driving quite difficult along certain roads. So don't be too alarmed if you encounter smoky skies in the area in August.

Nearby Albany, 13 miles northeast, was a prosperous town in territorial days. Located on the banks of the Willamette River, the town made its fortune as a shipping point in the days when the river was the main transportation route for the region. More than 500 historic homes make Albany the best-preserved historic town in the state, but owing to the large and unpleasant-smelling wood-pulp mill on the outskirts of town, the city has never really been able to cash in on its historic character.