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Clearwater County, Idaho facts for kids

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Clearwater County
Weippe Prairie
Official seal of Clearwater County
Map of Idaho highlighting Clearwater County
Location within the U.S. state of Idaho
Map of the United States highlighting Idaho
Idaho's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Idaho
Founded February 27, 1911
Named for Clearwater River
Seat Orofino
Largest city Orofino
 • Total 2,488 sq mi (6,440 km2)
 • Land 2,457 sq mi (6,360 km2)
 • Water 31 sq mi (80 km2)  1.2%
 • Total 8,734
 • Density 3.5105/sq mi (1.3554/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
Congressional district 1st

Clearwater County is a county located in the U.S. state of Idaho. As of the 2020 census, the population was 8,734. The county seat is Orofino. Established in 1911, the county was named after the Clearwater River.

The county is home to North Fork of the Clearwater River, and a small portion of the South Fork and the main Clearwater. Also in the county are the Dworshak Reservoir, Dworshak State Park, Dworshak National Fish Hatchery, and the Dworshak Dam, third highest in the U.S. The modest Bald Mountain ski area is located between Orofino and Pierce.


The Clearwater River and Lolo Pass, in the southeast corner of the county, were made famous by the exploration of Lewis and Clark in the early 19th century. Following an arduous trek through the Bitterroot Mountains, suffering through a mid-September snowstorm and near starvation, the Corps of Discovery expedition camped with the Nez Perce tribe on the Weippe Prairie outside of present-day Weippe in 1805. With the assistance of the Nez Perce, the expedition recuperated and constructed burned-out canoes at Canoe Camp in October 1805 and then paddled down the Clearwater, Snake, and Columbia rivers and met the Pacific Ocean a month later at present-day Astoria, Oregon.

Elias D. Pierce and Wilbur F. Bassett made the first discovery of gold in Idaho, on Orofino Creek (Canal Gulch) in 1860, 1 mile (2 km) north of present-day Pierce.

Until 1904, Clearwater County was part of Shoshone County to the north. It was annexed by Nez Perce County for several years and then was established as a new county in 1911. The original county seat of Shoshone County was Pierce, in today's Clearwater County. It was the first gold rush area of present-day Idaho (then Washington Territory) in 1860 and was made the county seat of a vast Shoshone County in 1861, two years prior to the establishment of the Idaho Territory. When the Silver Valley population rose dramatically in the 1880s, the seat was moved to Murray in 1884 (and to Wallace in 1898) to better serve the majority of the county's population. The population of the southern area increased with homesteading in the Weippe area in the late 1890s. The vast distance and time required for travel to Wallace from the Clearwater River area prompted the move of the southern portion to Nez Perce County.


02 17 07 elk creek
Elk Creek Falls

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,488 square miles (6,440 km2), of which 2,457 square miles (6,360 km2) is land and 31 square miles (80 km2) (1.2%) is water. It is part of the Palouse, a wide and rolling prairie-like region of the middle Columbia basin.

Adjacent counties

Major highways

  • US 12.svg US-12
  • ID-7.svg SH-7
  • ID-8.svg SH-8
  • ID-11.svg SH-11

National protected areas

Ski area


Historical population
Census Pop.
1920 4,993
1930 6,599 32.2%
1940 8,243 24.9%
1950 8,217 −0.3%
1960 8,548 4.0%
1970 10,871 27.2%
1980 10,390 −4.4%
1990 8,505 −18.1%
2000 8,930 5.0%
2010 8,761 −1.9%
2020 8,734 −0.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2020 2020

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 8,761 people, 3,660 households, and 2,397 families living in the county. The population density was 3.6 inhabitants per square mile (1.4/km2). There were 4,453 housing units at an average density of 1.8 per square mile (0.69/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 93.9% white, 2.2% American Indian, 0.7% Asian, 0.2% black or African American, 0.1% Pacific islander, 0.8% from other races, and 2.1% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 3.1% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 29.3% were German, 17.8% were Irish, 13.8% were English, 6.7% were American, and 6.2% were Norwegian.

Of the 3,660 households, 22.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.7% were married couples living together, 6.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 34.5% were non-families, and 29.3% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.71. The median age was 49.0 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $41,835 and the median income for a family was $46,415. Males had a median income of $42,568 versus $30,048 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,507. About 9.0% of families and 11.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.7% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.



Unincorporated communities

Ghost town

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