Union County, Oregon

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Union County, Oregon
Union County Courthouse, La Grande, Oregon.jpg
Union County Courthouse in La Grande
Map of Oregon highlighting Union County
Location in the state of Oregon
Map of the United States highlighting Oregon
Oregon's location in the U.S.
Founded October 14, 1864
Seat La Grande
Largest city La Grande
 • Total 2,039 sq mi (5,281 km2)
 • Land 2,037 sq mi (5,276 km2)
 • Water 1.9 sq mi (5 km2), 0.1%
Population (est.)
 • (2014) 25,691
 • Density 13/sq mi (5/km²)
Congressional district 2nd
Time zone Pacific: UTC-8/-7
Website www.union-county.org

Union County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 census, the population was 25,748.[1] Its county seat is La Grande.[2]

Union County comprises the La Grande, OR Micropolitan Statistical Area. It is one of the eight counties of eastern Oregon.


According to Oregon Geographic Names, the county is named for the town of Union. Union County was originally part of Wasco County. The northern end of the Grande Ronde Valley was the first part to be settled.[3] During the 1860s, population growth in eastern Oregon prompted the State Legislature to split Umatilla and Baker Counties from Wasco County in 1862. Further settlement in the Grande Ronde Valley led to the division of Baker County to create Union County on October 14, 1864. The county doubled in population between 1880 and 1890.[3]

The choice of a county seat resulted in competition, based on geography and on economic and population growth, between La Grande and the city of Union. The county seat alternated between Union and La Grande until it permanently came to rest at La Grande in 1905. Between 1875 and 1913, adjustments were made between Union County's borders and the borders of Baker, Umatilla, and Wallowa counties.


Union County

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,039 square miles (5,280 km2), of which 2,037 square miles (5,280 km2) is land and 1.9 square miles (4.9 km2) (0.1%) is water.[4] The Forest Service owns 47% of the land in the county.[citation needed]

Adjacent counties[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 2,552
1880 6,550 156.7%
1890 12,044 83.9%
1900 16,070 33.4%
1910 16,191 0.8%
1920 16,636 2.7%
1930 17,492 5.1%
1940 17,399 −0.5%
1950 17,962 3.2%
1960 18,180 1.2%
1970 19,377 6.6%
1980 23,921 23.5%
1990 23,598 −1.4%
2000 24,530 3.9%
2010 25,748 5.0%
Est. 2014 25,691 [5] −0.2%
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 24,530 people, 9,740 households, and 6,516 families residing in the county. The population density was 12 people per square mile (5/km²). There were 10,603 housing units at an average density of 5 per square mile (2/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 94.29% White, 0.85% Native American, 0.85% Asian, 0.62% Pacific Islander, 0.51% Black/African American, 1.22% from other races, and 1.67% from two or more races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race constitute 2.45% of the population. 20.2% were of German, 15.5% American, 12.2% English and 10.5% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 9,740 households out of which 30.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.10% were married couples living together, 8.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.10% were non-families. 26.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.94.

In the county, the population was spread out with 24.60% under the age of 18, 12.10% from 18 to 24, 23.50% from 25 to 44, 25.00% from 45 to 64, and 14.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 95.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.40 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $33,738, and the median income for a family was $40,520. Males had a median income of $33,028 versus $21,740 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,907. About 8.50% of families and 13.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.60% of those under age 18 and 9.50% of those age 65 or over.

Government and politics[edit]

Registered voters of 2009.[11]

Like the rest of eastern Oregon, the majority of registered voters who are part of a political party in Union County belong to the Republican Party.[11] In the 2008 presidential election, 60.2 percent of Union County voters voted for Republican John McCain, while 38.63 percent voted for Democrat Barack Obama and 3.22 percent of voters either voted for a Third Party candidate or wrote in a candidate.[12] These numbers show a slight shift towards the Democratic candidate when compared to the 2004 presidential election, when 65.7% of Union Country voters voted for George W. Bush, 32.8% voted for John Kerry, and 1.5% of voters either voted for a third party candidate or wrote in a candidate.[13]

Oregon Legislative Assembly[edit]

Union County is located in Oregon State House District 57 which is currently represented by Greg Smith. It is also located in Oregon State Senate District 29, represented by Bill Hansell. Both Smith and Hansell are registered Republicans.[14]

Board of Commissioners[edit]

Union County is represented and governed by three commissioners. The Union County Board of Commissioners is currently made up of Steve McClure, Jack Howard, and Mark Davidson.[dated info] Steve McClure was selected to fill a vacant term then elected to his first full term in 1990. Jack Howard was elected for his first term in 2014, and Mark Davidson was elected for his first term in 2008.[15]


The initial economic interest in Union County was mining, but most of the mines were in the area annexed by Baker County in 1901.[citation needed] The local economy continues to be based on natural resources, including farming (wheat, fruit, vegetables, mint, and grass seed), ranching (cattle and sheep), and timber. The ridges of Pyles Canyon are the site of the Elkhorn Valley Wind Farm, owned and operated by Horizon Wind Energy and whose power is sold to Idaho Power.[16] Since October 2010, the county board of commissioners has supported a "strategic investment program" for another wind power project in Oregon, Horizon Wind Energy's proposed Antelope Ridge Wind Farm;[17] after delays due to concerns about the project's impact on wildlife,[18] the project has received support from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.[19]

Nearby mountains and streams offer hunting, fishing, skiing, and camping, all of which attract vacationers. Attractions include the Anthony Lakes (and its ski area), Minam River, Mount Emily, Blue Mountains, Umatilla National Forest, Wallowa–Whitman National Forest (including Eagle Cap Wilderness), Catherine Creek State Park, Hilgard Junction State Recreation Area, Thief Valley Reservoir, Cove Hot Springs Pool, the Hot Lake Hotel (first built in the 1860s due to nearby hot springs), and the Eagle Cap Excursion Train.

Basalt outcroppings along the Grande Ronde River (August 2011).



Unincorporated communities[edit]


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ a b Bailey, Barbara Ruth (1982). Main Street: Northeastern Oregon. Oregon Historical Society. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-87595-073-6. 
  4. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 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 28, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  8. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  10. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  11. ^ a b http://www.sos.state.or.us/elections/votreg/mar09.pdf Retrieved 4/20/09
  12. ^ http://www.union-county.org/ Retrieved 2012-02-02[not in citation given]
  13. ^ http://www.city-data.com/county/Union_County-OR.html Retrieved on 4/21/09
  14. ^ http://www.votesmart.org/search.php?search=97850&submit_lastname-zip.x=0&submit_lastname-zip.y=12 Retrieved 10/22/09
  15. ^ http://www.union-county.org/ Retrieved on 8/25/2009
  16. ^ "Elkhorn Valley Wind Farm". EDP Renováveis. Retrieved 2012-02-02. Elkhorn Valley Wind Farm spreads across the ridges of Pyles Canyon in Union County, Oregon... Commercial operation began in December 2007, and Idaho Power buys the wind farm's green energy. 
  17. ^ Proposed Antelope Ridge SIP from the county's official website as of 2012-02-02
  18. ^ An impact on wildlife, an article by Charlie Gillis published April 15, 2011 by The Observer
  19. ^ ODFW and EDP Renewables North America agree to a solution for the coexistence of wildlife and the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind Farm, a November 14, 2011 announcement from the website of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°19′38″N 118°5′36″W / 45.32722°N 118.09333°W / 45.32722; -118.09333