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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.

Umatilla County, Oregon

Umatilla County Education, Geography, and HistoryUmatilla County, Oregon Courthouse

Umatilla County is a county located in the state of Oregon. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 75,889. The county seat is Pendleton. The county is named for the Umatilla River.

Umatilla County is part of the Pendleton–Hermiston, OR Micropolitan Statistical Area. It is included in the 8 county definition of Eastern Oregon.

Etymology - Origin of Umatilla County Name

Umatilla is an Indian term meaning "rippling water" or "water rippling over sand" and has provided the name both for the county and its major river.


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

Umatilla County History

Umatilla County was created on September 27, 1862, out of a portion of Wasco County. Umatilla is an Indian term meaning "rippling water" or "water rippling over sand" and has provided the name both for the county and its major river. Adjustments were made to the county's boundaries following the creation of Grant, Morrow, Union, and Wallowa Counties. The county contains 3,231 square miles and is bounded by the Columbia River on the north, Morrow County on the west, Grant County on the south, and Union and Wallowa Counties on the east.

The legislative act that created Umatilla County designated Marshall Station as the temporary county seat. Umatilla City was chosen the county seat in an 1865 election. Population shifted to the north and east parts of the county due to the opening of the Pendleton area to wheat production. A subsequent election in 1868 resulted in the selection of Pendleton as the new county seat, supplanting both Marshall Station and Umatilla City.

The first courthouse was completed in 1866 in Umatilla City. The next courthouse, and the first built in Pendleton, was a wooden, two-story structure completed in 1869. In 1889 a three-story brick courthouse and jail was erected. A fourth courthouse was built on the site of the old courthouse in 1956 and is still in use today.

The government of Umatilla County consisted originally of a county judge, two county commissioners, clerk, and sheriff. The offices of treasurer, assessor, coroner, and superintendent of schools were added a short time after formation of the county. The county judge position was abolished and a third commissioner was added in 1975.

The first census of the Umatilla County in 1870 counted 2,916 inhabitants. The population has increased steadily with a 2000 census figure of 70,548 representing an increase of 19.07% over 1990.

The Umatilla Indian Reservation was established by the Treaty of Walla Walla in 1855. It became an 800 square mile home for the Umatillas, Walla Wallas, and Cayuse tribes and is located immediately southeast of Pendleton. The Umatilla Confederated Tribes have 1,400 enrolled members.

Lewis and Clark and pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail passed through the area. The gold rush of 1862 brought miners and stock raisers to the mountains and grasslands of Umatilla County. The county expanded after the coming of the railroad in 1881 and the area was open to the development of dry land wheat farming. The fertile land of Umatilla County gives a strongly agricultural base to the county's economy. Fruit, grain, timber, cattle, and sheep are important agricultural products. Recreation, primarily in the Blue Mountains, and tourism, most notably for the annual Pendleton Round-Up rodeo, are also important to the local economy.

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 3,231 square miles (8,370 km2), of which 3,216 square miles (8,330 km2) is land and 16 square miles (41 km2) (0.5%) is water. It borders the Columbia River across from Washington.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Benton County, Washington (north)
  • Walla Walla County, Washington (north)
  • Columbia County, Washington (northeast)
  • Wallowa County (east)
  • Union County (east)
  • Grant County (south)
  • Morrow County (west)


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