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Oregon Counties

There are thyirty-six counties in the state of Oregon. The Oregon Constitution does not explicitly provide for county seats.

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Wasco County, Oregon

Wasco County Education, Geography, and HistoryWasco County, Oregon Courthouse

Wasco County is a county located in the state of Oregon. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 25,213. Its county seat is The Dalles. The county is named for a local tribe of Native Americans, the Wasco, a Chinook tribe who lived on the south side of the Columbia River.

Wasco County comprises the The Dalles, OR Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Etymology - Origin of Wasco County Name

Wasco County is named for the Wasco (or Wascopam) tribe of Indians that lived south of the Columbia River, near The Dalles.


County QuickFacts: Census Bureau Quick Facts

Wasco County History

Wasco County is named for the Wasco (or Wascopam) tribe of Indians that lived south of the Columbia River, near The Dalles. When Wasco County was created from portions of Clackamas, Marion, Linn, and Lane Counties on January 11, 1854, it consisted of all of Oregon Territory between the Cascade Range and the Rocky Mountains and from latitude 42deg. (the California border) to latitude 46deg. (the Washington border). This was the largest county ever formed in the United States, originally consisting of 130,000 square miles.

Portions of Wasco County as it was originally drawn now lie in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Over the years, seventeen other counties in eastern Oregon were created from Wasco County, which now consists of 2,387 square miles. It is bordered by two rivers, the Columbia to the north and the Deschutes to the east, and by the Warm Springs Indian Reservation on the south and Mt. Hood National Forest on the west. Wasco County shares political boundaries with Sherman, Wheeler, Jefferson, Clackamas, and Hood River Counties.

The Dalles was designated the county seat when the county was formed in 1854. Courthouses were built in 1859, 1884, and in 1914. All three buildings are standing today and the 1914 building is still in use as the county courthouse.

Elected county officials include the county judge, two commissioners, clerk, sheriff, and surveyor. In 1969 the county court ceased to have any judicial functions and became a purely administrative body.

The 2000 Wasco County population of 23,791 was an increase of 9.72% over 1990.

The falls on the Columbia River near The Dalles served as a gathering place and major trading center for many Indians, including the Wasco, Paiute, and Warm Springs. The falls had been named Le Grand Dalles de la Columbia (The Great Falls of the Columbia) by French Canadian fur traders. The Indians of the region were moved to the Warm Springs Reservation in 1855.

The Dalles had served initially as a way station on the emigrant road to the Willamette Valley. The construction of a pioneer road over the Cascades in 1845 and the Donation Land Act of 1850 brought families to the area to settle. Wasco County became a major transportation hub for both river traffic and inland traffic. River traffic on the Columbia River was profoundly affected in 1935 by the building of Bonneville Dam in Multnomah County and by The Dalles Dam in 1957 in Wasco County. The county's economy is based upon agriculture (orchards, wheat farming, livestock ranching), lumber, manufacturing, electric power, transportation, aluminum, and tourism.

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,395 square miles (6,200 km2), of which 2,382 square miles (6,170 km2) is land and 14 square miles (36 km2) (0.6%) is water. The northern boundary with Washington is the Columbia River (the state line).

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Hood River County, Oregon - west
  • Clackamas County, Oregon - west
  • Marion County, Oregon - southwest
  • Jefferson County, Oregon - south
  • Wheeler County, Oregon - southeast
  • Gilliam County, Oregon - east
  • Sherman County, Oregon - east
  • Klickitat County, Washington - north


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