Malheur County, Oregon

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Malheur County, Oregon
Malheur County Courthouse.jpg
Malheur County Courthouse in Vale
Map of Oregon highlighting Malheur County
Location in the state of Oregon
Map of the United States highlighting Oregon
Oregon's location in the U.S.
Founded February 17, 1887
Named for Malheur River
Seat Vale
Largest city Ontario
 • Total 9,930 sq mi (25,719 km2)
 • Land 9,888 sq mi (25,610 km2)
 • Water 42 sq mi (109 km2), 0.4%
Population (est.)
 • (2014) 30,359
Congressional district 2nd
Time zones Mountain: UTC-7/-6
North of 42.45° N latitude[1]
Pacific: UTC-8/-7
South of 42.45° N latitude[1]

Malheur County /mælˈhɪər/ is a county located in the southeast corner of the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 census, the population was 31,313.[2] Its county seat is Vale,[3] and its largest city is Ontario. The county was named after the Malheur River, which runs through the county. "Malheur" is French for misfortune.[4]

Malheur County is included in the Ontario, OR-ID Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Boise City-Mountain Home-Ontario, ID-OR Combined Statistical Area. It is included in the eight-county definition of Eastern Oregon.


Malheur County was created February 17, 1887, from the southern portion of Baker County. It was first settled by miners and stockmen in the early 1860s. The discovery of gold in 1863 attracted further development, including settlements and ranches. Basques settled in the region in the 1890s and were mainly engaged in sheep raising.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 9,930 square miles (25,700 km2), of which 9,888 square miles (25,610 km2) is land and 42 square miles (110 km2) (0.4%) is water.[5] It is the second-largest county in Oregon by area.

Adjacent counties[edit]

National protected areas[edit]


Pillars of Rome, near Rome

Time zones[edit]

Most of Malheur County (shown in red) is in the Mountain Time Zone; a small portion in the southern part of the county is in the Pacific Time Zone along with the rest of the state of Oregon and neighboring Nevada.
Further information: Time in Oregon

Because of its economic relationship with Idaho, most of the county is in the Mountain time zone, making it the only county in Oregon that does not completely follow Pacific Time. The largely unpopulated southern quarter of the county, near McDermitt, observes Pacific Time. The legal dividing line between the two begins at the southwest corner of township 35 S, range 37 E and continues east to the Oregon–Idaho border, at a latitude of approximately 42.45° N. Malheur is one of the few counties in the U.S. that legally observes two different time zones.[1]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 2,601
1900 4,203 61.6%
1910 8,601 104.6%
1920 10,907 26.8%
1930 11,269 3.3%
1940 19,767 75.4%
1950 23,223 17.5%
1960 22,764 −2.0%
1970 23,169 1.8%
1980 26,896 16.1%
1990 26,038 −3.2%
2000 31,615 21.4%
2010 31,313 −1.0%
Est. 2014 30,359 [6] −3.0%
U.S. Decennial Census[7]
1790-1960[8] 1900-1990[9]
1990-2000[10] 2010-2014[2]

As of the census[11] of 2000, there were 31,615 people, 10,221 households, and 7,348 families residing in the county. The population density was 3 people per square mile (1.2/km²). There were 11,233 housing units at an average density of 1 per square mile (0.4/km²). The racial makeup of the county was:

25.62% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 14.2% were of German, 10.5% English, 8.4% American and 6.9% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000. 79.4% spoke English and 19.4% Spanish as their first language.

There were 10,221 households out of which 36.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.30% were married couples living together, 10.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.10% were non-families. 23.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.77 and the average family size was 3.28.

In the county, the population was spread out with 27.60% under the age of 18, 10.60% from 18 to 24, 27.20% from 25 to 44, 21.00% from 45 to 64, and 13.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 116.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 121.20 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,241, and the median income for a family was $35,672. Males had a median income of $25,489 versus $21,764 for females. The per capita income for the county was $13,895. About 14.60% of families and 18.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.80% of those under age 18 and 11.60% of those age 65 or over.

Malheur County is the poorest county in Oregon.[12] As of 2008, 21% of its residents live in poverty.[13]


Like all counties in eastern Oregon, the majority of registered voters who are part of a political party in Malheur County are members of the Republican Party. In the 2008 presidential election, 69.10% of Malheur County voters voted for Republican John McCain, while 28.47% voted for Democrat Barack Obama and 2.42% of voters voted for a third-party candidate. These statistics do not include write-in votes.[14] These numbers show a small shift towards the Democratic candidate when compared to the 2004 presidential election, in which 74.9% of Malheur Country voters voted for George W. Bush, while 23.8% voted for John Kerry, and 1.3% of voters either voted for a third-party candidate or wrote in a candidate.[15]

Political orientations in Malheur County, Oregon (2009).gif[16]

Malheur County is one of the most Republican counties in Oregon when it comes to Presidential elections. It was one of only two counties in Oregon to give the majority of its vote to Barry Goldwater and has favored the Republican candidate for decades.[17] The last Democratic candidate to carry the county was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940.[18] Further every Republican candidate since 1996 has received more than 60% of the county's vote.[19]

As part of Oregon's 2nd congressional district it has been represented by Republican Greg Walden since 1999.


The county is 94% rangeland, with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controlling 72% of the land. Irrigated fields in the county's northeast corner, known as Western Treasure Valley, are the center of intensive and diversified farming. Malheur County's economy also depends on tourism.

The county's two largest employers are the Snake River Correctional Institution and Ore-Ida, a potato processor owned by H.J. Heinz.[13]


A sugar beet plant of the Amalgamated Sugar Company in Nyssa.


Census-designated places[edit]

Unincorporated communities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 49 C.F.R. 71.9
  2. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  4. ^ malheur,
  5. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  7. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 26, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved February 26, 2015. 
  9. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 26, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved February 26, 2015. 
  11. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  12. ^ U.S. Census Data
  13. ^ a b Jacklet, Ben (April 2008). "Prisontown myth". Oregon Business magazine. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  14. ^ Retrieved on 4/21/09
  15. ^ Retrieved on 4/21/09
  16. ^ Retrieved on 4/21/09
  17. ^ David Leip's Presidential Atlas (Maps for Oregon by election)
  18. ^ Geographie Electorale
  19. ^ The New York Times electoral map (Zoom in on Oregon)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°13′N 117°38′W / 43.21°N 117.63°W / 43.21; -117.63