Salem is the capital of the U. S. state of Oregon, and the county seat of Marion County. It is located in the center of the Willamette Valley alongside the Willamette River, which runs north through the city.
The river forms the boundary between Marion and Polk counties, and the city neighborhood of West Salem is in Polk County. Salem was founded in 1842, became the capital of the Oregon Territory in 1851, and was incorporated in 1857. Salem had a population of 169,798 in 2017, making it the second-largest city in the state after Portland. Salem is a little under an hour's driving distance away from Portland. Salem is the principal city of the Salem Metropolitan Statistical Area, a metropolitan area that covers Marion and Polk counties and had a combined population of 390,738 at the 2010 census. A 2013 estimate placed the metropolitan population at 400,408, the state's second largest. This area is, in turn, part of the Portland-Vancouver-Salem Combined Statistical Area. The city is home to Willamette University, Corban University, and Chemeketa Community College. The State of Oregon is the largest public employer in the city, and Salem Health is the largest private employer.