Wallowa County, Oregon

Wallowa County, Oregon

Infobox U.S. County
county = Wallowa County
state = Oregon

map size = 225
founded = October 14, 1864
seat = Enterprise | area_total_sq_mi =3152
area_land_sq_mi =3145
area_water_sq_mi =6
area percentage = 0.20%
census yr = 2000
pop = 7226
density_km2 =1
web = www.co.wallowa.or.us

Wallowa County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oregon. 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".

In 2000, the county's population was 7,226. Its seat is EnterpriseGR|6.


The principal industries in Wallowa County are agriculture, ranching, lumber, and tourism. 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. The Forest Service is the largest landlord in the county, owning 56% of the land.


Wallowa is the northeasternmost county of Oregon. It has a total area of 3,152 square miles (8,163 km²), of which, 3,145 square miles (8,146 km²) of it is land and 6 square miles (16 km²) of it (0.20%) is water.

Geographic features

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

* Grande Ronde River
* Joseph Canyon
* Hells Canyon
* Wallowa River

Major highways

* Oregon Route 3
* Oregon Route 82

Adjacent counties

* Umatilla County, Oregon - (west)
* Union County, Oregon - (west)
* Baker County, Oregon - (south)
* Adams County, Idaho - (southeast)
* Idaho County, Idaho - (east)
* Nez Perce County, Idaho - (northeast)
* Asotin County, Washington - (north)
* Garfield County, Washington - (north)
* Columbia County, Washington - (north)

National protected areas

* Nez Perce National Historical Park (part)
* Umatilla National Forest (part)
* Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (part)


As of the censusGR|2 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.


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, 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. Approximately half of the survivors moved to the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho.

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 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 was defeated June 2004; one reason given was the fact prominent local families are related to the killers.

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 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.


Incorporated cities


Unincorporated communities

Points of interest

The city of Enterprise in Wallowa County is the home of the second-oldest running theatre in Oregon.Fact|date=February 2007 The single-screen OK Theatre was built in 1918 but had to delay opening until the spring of 1919 because of the 1918 flu pandemic.


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