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In the earliest days of the region’s history, Hood River was primarily known for its unspoiled beauty and wealth of animals, whose furs fetched excellent prices back east. As a result, the earliest settlers in the region were primarily fur traders, and it was not until the mid-1800s that permanent families began settling down. The town was dominated by farms until just a few decades ago, and today agriculture is still an important part of Hood River heritage as well as its economy. Around the turn of the century, Hood River was renowned for its apples, but a bad freeze in 1919 led to major replanting, and now the county is the world’s leading producer of Anjou pears. Several tens of thousands of orchard and farmland still remain in the valley, and a few hundred farmers remain on their traditional residences, practicing agricultural crafts. They remain fiercely proud of their way of life and many of these farms give tours of their facilities or sell their products in country-style stores onsite to visitors.
However, in recent years, Hood River’s economy has made a shift towards tourism, so the city is very visitor-oriented. The locals especially pride themselves on the Columbia River Gorge, a favorite destination of windsurfers. The town even proclaims itself to be the windsurfing capital of the world.