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Columbia County, Oregon facts for kids

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Columbia County
Columbia County Courthouse in St. Helens
Columbia County Courthouse in St. Helens
Map of Oregon highlighting Columbia County
Location within the U.S. state of Oregon
Map of the United States highlighting Oregon
Oregon's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Oregon
Founded January 16, 1854
Seat St. Helens
Largest city St. Helens
 • Total 688 sq mi (1,780 km2)
 • Land 657 sq mi (1,700 km2)
 • Water 31 sq mi (80 km2)  4.5%%
 • Total 52,589
 • Estimate 
53,074 Increase
 • Density 75/sq mi (29/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
Congressional district 1st

Columbia County is one of the 36 counties in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2020 census, the population was 52,589. The county seat is St. Helens.


The Chinook and Clatskanie Native Americans inhabited this region for centuries prior to the arrival of Robert Gray, captain of the ship Columbia Rediviva, in 1792. The Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled and camped along the Columbia River shore in the area later known as Columbia County in late 1805 and on their return journey in early 1806.

Columbia County was created in 1854 from the northern half of Washington County. Milton served as the county seat until 1857 when it was moved to St. Helens.

Columbia County has been afflicted by numerous flooding disasters, the most recent in December 2007. Heavy rains caused the Nehalem River to escape its banks and flood the city of Vernonia and rural areas nearby. Columbia County received a presidential disaster declaration for this event.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has an area of 688 square miles (1,780 km2), of which 657 square miles (1,700 km2) is land and 31 square miles (80 km2) (4.5%) is water. It is Oregon's third-smallest county by land area and fourth-smallest by total area.

Adjacent counties

National protected area


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 532
1870 863 62.2%
1880 2,042 136.6%
1890 5,191 154.2%
1900 6,237 20.2%
1910 10,580 69.6%
1920 13,960 31.9%
1930 20,047 43.6%
1940 20,971 4.6%
1950 22,967 9.5%
1960 22,379 −2.6%
1970 28,790 28.6%
1980 35,646 23.8%
1990 37,557 5.4%
2000 43,560 16.0%
2010 49,351 13.3%
Est. 2021 53,074 7.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2020

2010 census

As of the 2010 census, there were 49,351 people, 19,183 households, and 13,516 families living in the county. The population density was 75.1 inhabitants per square mile (29.0/km2). There were 20,698 housing units at an average density of 31.5 per square mile (12.2/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 92.5% white, 1.3% American Indian, 0.9% Asian, 0.4% black or African American, 0.2% Pacific islander, 1.2% from other races, and 3.4% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 4.0% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 26.1% were German, 14.5% were English, 14.4% were Irish, 5.9% were Norwegian, and 4.8% were American.

Of the 19,183 households, 32.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.5% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 29.5% were non-families, and 23.3% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 2.98. The median age was 41.3 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $55,199 and the median income for a family was $62,728. Males had a median income of $52,989 versus $35,558 for females. The per capita income for the county was $24,613. About 6.5% of families and 10.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.7% of those under age 18 and 6.6% of those age 65 or over.


CC Rider van at Willow Creek MAX station
The CC Rider transit service links the county to Portland and points in Washington County, including connecting with TriMet buses and the MAX light rail system in eastern Hillsboro.

Public transit

Columbia County Rider (CC Rider), a service of the Columbia County Transit Division, provides six intercity bus lines and one "flex route" serving various points of downtown St. Helens and downtown Scappoose. As of 2016, CC Rider buses are operated by contract drivers supplied by MTR Western, a charter motor coach operator.

The transit agency is largely funded by grants from the Oregon Department of Transportation and the federal government. Attempts at making CC Rider a separate transit district and to introduce new taxes to fund it have repeatedly failed since 2015. Columbia County and nearby Clatsop County are currently studying options on consolidating the two county's transit services.

Single-ride fares range from $2 to $6 per ride, depending on number of zones traveled. A ride to Astoria costs up to $10 per ride each way.

Major highways

  • US 26
  • US 30

  • US 30 Bus.
  • OR 47
  • OR 202


Columbia County Sheriff's Office


Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities


The primary industries are wood products and paper manufacturing, trade, construction and horticulture. The extensive stands of old-growth timber, which had attracted many of the early settlers to the area, were completely logged over by the 1950s. Second-growth timber provides the raw material for local lumber and paper mills. About half the county's workforce commutes out of the county to work, most to the nearby Portland, Oregon, metro area. Columbia County's average non-farm employment was 10,740 in 2007. The five largest private employers in Columbia County are Fred Meyer, Cascade Tissue Group, Wal-Mart, OMIC, USIA, and USG.

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