Baker County, Oregon

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Baker County, Oregon
Baker County Courthouse in Baker City
Map of Oregon highlighting Baker County
Location in the state of Oregon
Map of the United States highlighting Oregon
Oregon's location in the U.S.
Founded September 22, 1862
Seat Baker City
Largest city Baker City
 • Total 3,088 sq mi (7,998 km2)
 • Land 3,068 sq mi (7,946 km2)
 • Water 20 sq mi (52 km2), 0.6%
Population (est.)
 • (2014) 16,059
 • Density 5.3/sq mi (2/km²)
Congressional district 2nd
Time zone Pacific: UTC-8/-7

Baker County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 census, the population was 16,134.[1] The county seat and largest city is Baker City.[2] The county was split from the eastern part of Wasco County. Union County and Malheur County were set off from Baker County in 1864 and 1887 respectively. It is named for Edward Dickinson Baker, a senator from Oregon who was killed at Ball's Bluff, a battle of the Civil War in Virginia in 1861.

Baker County is included in the 8 county definition of Eastern Oregon.


The first groups from the eastern U.S. following the Oregon Trail passed through the area on their way to the Willamette Valley, unaware of the potential wealth they passed over. At Flagstaff Hill, near Baker City, 15 miles (24 km) of wagon ruts left by immigrants can still be seen.

In 1861 gold was discovered and Baker County became one of the Northwest's largest gold producers.

On September 22 of the following year, the state assembly created Baker County from the eastern part of Wasco County. Later, Union County and Malheur County were created from this county. The boundaries were adjusted for the last time in 1901, when the area between the Powder River and the Wallowa Mountains was returned to Baker County.

The original county seat was at Auburn. While at first a booming mining town with 5,000 inhabitants, once the gold was mined out Auburn's population dwindled, and county citizens eventually voted in 1868 to make Baker City, incorporated in 1874, the new county seat.

The population of Baker County nearly quadrupled between the years 1880 and 1910. This growth was largely a product of the emergence and expansion of the Sumpter Valley Railroad and several of its spur lines, which helped lumber and mining operations to develop and grow.[3]

In 1914 Fern Hobbs, on behalf of her employer Governor Oswald West, declared martial law in the Baker County city of Copperfield. This was the first declaration of martial law in the state since the American Civil War.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 3,088 square miles (8,000 km2), of which 3,068 square miles (7,950 km2) is land and 20 square miles (52 km2) (0.6%) is water.[4]

About 30% of the county is forest.

Adjacent counties[edit]

National protected areas[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 2,804
1880 4,616 64.6%
1890 6,764 46.5%
1900 15,597 130.6%
1910 18,076 15.9%
1920 17,929 −0.8%
1930 16,754 −6.6%
1940 18,297 9.2%
1950 16,175 −11.6%
1960 17,295 6.9%
1970 14,919 −13.7%
1980 16,134 8.1%
1990 15,317 −5.1%
2000 16,741 9.3%
2010 16,134 −3.6%
Est. 2014 16,059 [5] −0.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[6]
1790-1960[7] 1900-1990[8]
1990-2000[9] 2010-2014[1]

As of the census[10] of 2000, there were 16,741 people, 6,883 households, and 4,680 families residing in the county. The population density was 6 people per square mile (2/km²). There were 8,402 housing units at an average density of 3 per square mile (1/km²). The racial makeup of the county was:

2.34% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 18.4% were of English, 17.4% German, 11.4% American and 9.1% Irish ancestry.

There were 6,883 households out of which 28.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.20% were married couples living together, 8.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.00% were non-families. 27.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.87.

In the county, the population dispersal was 24.20% under the age of 18, 5.80% from 18 to 24, 23.60% from 25 to 44, 27.30% from 45 to 64, and 19.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 98.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,367, and the median income for a family was $36,106. Males had a median income of $27,133 versus $20,480 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,612. About 10.10% of families and 14.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.80% of those under age 18 and 12.40% of those age 65 or over.


Like all counties in eastern Oregon, the majority of registered voters who are part of a political party in Baker County are members of the Republican Party. In the 2008 presidential election, 64.37% of Baker County voters voted for Republican John McCain, while 31.95% voted for Democrat Barack Obama and 3.66% of voters either voted for a Third Party candidate or wrote in a candidate.[11] These numbers have changed slightly from the 2004 presidential election, in which 69.2% voted for George W. Bush, while 29% voted for John Kerry, and 1.8% of voters either voted for a Third Party candidate or wrote in a candidate.[12]



Gold mining was the original impetus for settlement in the area, and at one time the county was the largest gold producer in the Northwest. Gold dredging was conducted with the Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge. With the exhaustion of the gold fields, agriculture, stock raising, logging became the primary economic pursuits. In the last decades of the 20th century, tourism also contributed to the local economy, helped by attractions that include the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, and Anthony Lakes Ski Area. The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center has drawn numerous visitors since its opening in 1993.


Incorporated cities[edit]

Unincorporated communities[edit]

Ghost towns[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 14, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ William G. Robbins, Landscapes of Promise: The Oregon Story, 1800-1940. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997; pg. 142.
  4. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  6. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  8. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  10. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  11. ^ Retrieved on 4/21/09
  12. ^ Retrieved on 4/21/09
  13. ^ Retrieved on 02/19/2012

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°43′N 117°40′W / 44.71°N 117.67°W / 44.71; -117.67