Wallowa County, Oregon

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Wallowa County, Oregon
Wallowa Oregon County Courthouse.jpg
Map of Oregon highlighting Wallowa County
Location in the state of Oregon
Map of the United States highlighting Oregon
Oregon's location in the U.S.
Founded October 14, 1887
Seat Enterprise
Largest city Enterprise
 • Total 3,152 sq mi (8,164 km2)
 • Land 3,146 sq mi (8,148 km2)
 • Water 5.5 sq mi (14 km2), 0.2%
Population (est.)
 • (2014) 6,820
 • Density 2.2/sq mi (1/km²)
Congressional district 2nd
Time zone Pacific: UTC-8/-7
Website www.co.wallowa.or.us

Wallowa County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 census, the population was 7,008,[1] making it the fourth-least populous county in Oregon. Its county seat is Enterprise.[2] According to Oregon Geographic Names, the origins of the county's name are uncertain, with the most likely explanation being that it is derived from the Nez Perce term for a structure of stakes (a weir) used in fishing. An alternative explanation is that Wallowa is derived from a Nez Perce word for "winding water". The journals of Lewis and Clark Expedition record the name of the Wallowa River as Wil-le-wah.

Wallowa County is included in the eight-county definition of Eastern Oregon.


In 1871, the first white settlers came to the area, crossing the mountains in search of livestock feed in the Wallowa Valley. The county was established on February 11, 1887,[3] from the eastern portion of Union County. Boundary changes occurred with Union County in 1890, 1900, and 1915.

In 1877, the younger Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, incensed at the government's attempt to deprive his people of the Wallowa Valley, refused to be moved to an Idaho reservation. Several regiments of United States troops were dispatched to force him onto the reservation. After several battles and a march of almost two thousand miles towards sanctuary in Canada, Chief Joseph was forced to surrender in Montana, forty miles from the Canadian border. He and some of the survivors from his band were detained in Oklahoma, and later were relocated to Colville Reservation in Washington State.[4] Approximately half of the survivors moved to the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho. Chief Joseph last visited Wallowa County in 1902.[3]

Wallowa County was the scene of perhaps the worst incident of violence against Chinese in Oregon, when in May 1887 a gang of rustlers massacred 10-34 Chinese gold miners in Hells Canyon. Of the seven rustlers and schoolboys believed to have been responsible, only three were brought to trial in Enterprise, where a jury found them not guilty on September 1, 1888. A proposal to commemorate this event on official maps as Chinese Massacre Cove was approved in 2005 and encompasses a five acre site.[5]

Wallowa County Courthouse was built in 1909-1910 using locally quarried Bowlby stone, a type of volcanic tuff. The courthouse is a Romanesque Revival-style building with Queen Anne architectural elements in some exterior features. The courthouse was listed on National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Today, the courthouse still houses Wallowa County government offices. The courthouse faces west toward South River Street and is surrounded by Courthouse Square which encompasses one city block, approximately 1.3 acres. The square is landscaped with oak, pine, maple, linden, juniper, and flowering crab apple trees. There are roses planted on the north, west, and south sides of the courthouse. The square also has several veteran memorials along with a 20 feet (6.1 m) by 24 feet (7.3 m) wood-framed gazebo in the northeast corner of the square.[6][7][8]

Wallowa mountains and lake

United States Supreme Court Associate Justice William O. Douglas was one famous summer visitor to Wallowa County, building a vacation cabin on Lostine River Road in 1939.

In December 2003, a developer announced a proposal to buy a 62-acre (250,000 m2) property near Wallowa Lake, and build 11 homes on it. This property is adjacent to the property that is home to the grave of Old Chief Joseph, father of the younger Chief Joseph. This proposal drew opposition from a local group, as well as from the Nez Perce, Colville, and Umatilla tribes. Prior offers by the National Park Service and the Trust for Public Land to buy the land were rejected. The County commissioners gave conditional approval for the developers to complete a final plat of the land on February 13, 2004, but the attorney for the Nez Perce said the tribe would appeal the decision to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.


Wallowa is the northeasternmost county of Oregon. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 3,152 square miles (8,160 km2), of which 3,146 square miles (8,150 km2) is land and 5.5 square miles (14 km2) (0.2%) is water.[9]

Geographic features[edit]

Wallowa Lake and the Wallowa Mountains attract tourists to this region. The lake is a natural glacial formation, held in on three sides by prominent moraines. The microclimate is somewhat different from the surrounding areas and provides a cool retreat during the summer. Other geographic features include:

Adjacent counties[edit]

National protected areas[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 3,661
1900 5,538 51.3%
1910 8,364 51.0%
1920 9,778 16.9%
1930 7,814 −20.1%
1940 7,623 −2.4%
1950 7,264 −4.7%
1960 7,102 −2.2%
1970 6,247 −12.0%
1980 7,273 16.4%
1990 6,911 −5.0%
2000 7,226 4.6%
2010 7,008 −3.0%
Est. 2014 6,820 [10] −2.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]
1790-1960[12] 1900-1990[13]
1990-2000[14] 2010-2014[1]

As of the census[15] of 2000, there were 7,226 people, 3,029 households, and 2,083 families residing in the county. The population density was 2 people per square mile (1/km²). There were 3,900 housing units at an average density of 1 per square mile (0/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 96.50% White, 0.03% Black or African American, 0.71% Native American, 0.24% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.95% from other races, and 1.54% from two or more races. 1.73% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 21.8% were of German, 15.7% American, 12.3% English and 11.8% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 3,029 households out of which 28.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.70% were married couples living together, 6.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.20% were non-families. 27.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.85.

In the county, the population was spread out with 24.30% under the age of 18, 4.90% from 18 to 24, 21.90% from 25 to 44, 30.00% from 45 to 64, and 18.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females there were 100.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $32,129, and the median income for a family was $38,682. Males had a median income of $28,202 versus $21,558 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,276. About 9.80% of families and 14.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.30% of those under age 18 and 11.40% of those age 65 or over.


State Legislature[edit]

Wallowa County is located in Oregon State House District 58 which is currently represented by Bob Jenson. It is also located in Oregon State Senate District 29, represented by Bill Hansell. Both Jenson and Hansell are registered Republicans.[16]

Board of Commissioners[edit]

Wallowa County is represented and governed by three County Commissioners. The Wallowa County Board of Commissioners is currently made up of Mike Hayward, Susan Roberts, and Paul Castilleja.[17] Mike Hayward, who serves as the board's Chair, is a former county planning commissioner and was first elected in 2004, then reelected in 2008.[18] Susan Roberts is a former Mayor of Enterprise and was elected onto the Board of Commissioners in 2008.[19] Paul Castilleja is a former Mayor of Joseph and was elected in 2010. All three commissioners are registered Republicans.[18][19][20]

Make-up of voters[edit]

Like all counties in eastern Oregon, the majority of registered voters who are part of a political party in Wallowa County are members of the Republican Party. In the 2008 presidential election, 63.52% of Wallowa County voters voted for Republican John McCain, while 33.42% voted for Democrat Barack Obama and 3.06% of voters either voted for a Third Party candidate or wrote in a candidate.[21] These numbers have changed slightly from the 2004 presidential election, in which 69.3% voted for George W. Bush, while 28.1% voted for John Kerry, and 2.6% of voters either voted for a Third Party candidate or wrote in a candidate.[22]

Political orientations in Wallowa County, Oregon (March 2009).gif[23]


The principal industries in Wallowa County are agriculture, ranching, lumber, and tourism.[citation needed] Since 1985, three bronze foundries and a number of related businesses specializing in statue-making have opened in Joseph and Enterprise, helping to stabilize the local economy.[citation needed] The Forest Service is the largest landlord in the county, owning 56% of the land.[citation needed]


Major highways[edit]



Incorporated cities[edit]

Census-designated place[edit]

Unincorporated communities[edit]

Notable people[edit]

See also[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. 5, 28. ISBN 0-87595-073-6. 
  4. ^ "Chief Joseph". Online Highways LLC. 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2010. 
  5. ^ Nokes, R. Gregory. 2009. Massacred for Gold. Corvallis, Oregon: Oregon State University Press.
  6. ^ Wallowa County Courthouse, National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form, National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., 18 May 2000.
  7. ^ Historic Wallowa County Courthouse, Wallowa County, www.co.wallowa.or.us, Enterprise, Oregon, 2009.
  8. ^ The Wallowa County Courthouse, City of Enterprise, www.enterpriseoregon.org, Enterprise Oregon, 29 July 2012.
  9. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  11. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  13. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved February 28, 2015. 
  15. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  16. ^ http://www.votesmart.org/search.php?search=97828&x=5&y=14 Retrieved 11/17/09
  17. ^ http://www.co.wallowa.or.us/administration/board_of_commissioners/index.html Retrieved 01/31/2012
  18. ^ a b http://beta.lagrandeobserver.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=63137&Itemid=31 Retrieved 11/17/09
  19. ^ a b http://beta.lagrandeobserver.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=62396&Itemid=31 Retrieved 11/17/09
  20. ^ http://www.lagrandeobserver.com/News/Local-News/Races-set-in-Wallowa-County Retrieved 01/31/2012
  21. ^ http://www.uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/statesub.php?year=2008&fips=41063&f=0&off=0&elect=0 Retrieved on 4/21/09
  22. ^ http://www.city-data.com/county/Wallowa_County-OR.html Retrieved on 4/21/09
  23. ^ http://www.sos.state.or.us/elections/votreg/mar09.pdf Retrieved on 4/21/09
  24. ^ Finn, Robin (October 25, 2012). "Margaret Osborne duPont, Tennis Champion, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2014. 

Coordinates: 45°35′N 117°10′W / 45.58°N 117.17°W / 45.58; -117.17