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The Dalles
The Dalles, Oregon
The Dalles and the Columbia River in November 2008
The Dalles and the Columbia River in November 2008
Flag of The Dalles
Official seal of The Dalles
"Cognito timor Vincit" (Latin), "Knowledge Conquers Fear" (English)
Location in Oregon
Location in Oregon
County Wasco County
Incorporated 1857
 • City 6.94 sq mi (17.97 km2)
 • Land 6.66 sq mi (17.24 km2)
 • Water 0.28 sq mi (0.72 km2)
109 ft (33 m)
 • City 16,010
 • Density 2,367.23/sq mi (913.96/km2)
 • Metro
Time zone UTC−8 (PST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 458 and 541
FIPS code 41-72950
Website City of The Dalles

The Dalles is the largest city of Wasco County, Oregon, United States. The population was 16,010 at the 2020 census, and it is the largest city on the Oregon side of the Columbia River outside the Portland Metropolitan Area.


The site of what is now the city of The Dalles was a major Indian trading center for at least 10,000 years. The general area is one of the continent's most significant archaeological regions. Lewis and Clark camped near Mill Creek on October 25–27, 1805, and recorded the Indian name for the creek as Quenett.


The name of the city comes from the French word dalle (meaning either "sluice" (akin to English "dale" and German T[h]al, "valley") or "flagstone" and referring to the columnar basalt rocks carved by the river, in voyageur French used to refer to rapids), which was used by the French-Canadian employees of the North West Company to refer to the rapids of the Columbia River between the present-day city and Celilo Falls. Also in the same area was the Petite Dalles or Little Dalles, or Short Narrows.

Fur trade

The first use of the name Dalles, according to Oregon Geographic Names, appears in fur trader Gabriel Franchère's Narrative, on April 12, 1814, referring to the long series of major rapids in the river. Starting in the 1810s, Americans and Europeans passed by what became The Dalles, active in the North American fur trade as employees of either the American Pacific Fur Company (PFC) or the Canadian North West Company (NWC). Men like NWC officer David Thompson voyaged both down and up the Columbia, traveling through Celilo Falls. The War of 1812 led to the 1813 liquidation of the PFC, its properties like Fort Astoria sold to the North West Company.

The Dalles early
Early illustration of The Dalles, attributed to Joseph Drayton

In 1821 the North West Company was absorbed by the giant London-based Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). Fort Vancouver, built in 1824, replaced Fort Astoria as the regional fur trade headquarters. The HBC's trading network made extensive use of the Columbia River. The rapids of the Columbia River at The Dalles was the largest and longest of the four "great portages", where fur trading boats had to unload and transship their cargoes. Sometimes, during high water, boats traveling downriver would "shoot the rapids" instead of portaging, although the practice was dangerous and many people died as a result over the years.

The Dalles in the 1880s
Second Street circa 1880
The Umatilla House hotel circa 1880
E. B. McFarland House circa 1881

Wascopam Mission

In 1838 a branch of Jason Lee's Methodist Mission was established at Celilo Falls, named the Wascopam Mission, after the native Wasco Indians. In 1850 the U.S. Army founded a small post at the site of the old mission, being eventually named Fort Dalles. Fort Dalles became the nucleus of the town of The Dalles, which began to develop along the waterfront. In 1855, at the end of the Cayuse War, the Indians living near The Dalles were forceably relocated by the U.S. Army to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.

American settlement

In the early 1840s American settlers began to arrive in significant numbers, traveling overland via the Oregon Trail. The trail ended at The Dalles. It was not possible to take wagons farther west due to steep cliffs that fell straight into the Columbia River. Until the construction of the Barlow Road in 1846, the only way to reach Fort Vancouver and the Willamette Valley was by rafting down the river from The Dalles.

A post office was established within the boundaries of the current city in 1851, and The Dalles was incorporated as a city in 1857. It has been the major commercial center between Portland and Pendleton since. The city was originally named just "Dalles". In 1853 it was changed to "Wascopum," then, in 1860, to "The Dalles".

In 1864, the U.S. Congress appropriated money to build a U.S. mint in The Dalles that was to use gold from Canyon City for coinage. The supply of gold from Canyon City began to dwindle, however, and other problems, such as cost over-runs, workers leaving to work the gold fields, and flooding from the Columbia River, also contributed to the project running two years behind schedule and led eventually to its demise. In 1870, the State of Oregon received the property from the U.S. Government and the building was put to other uses. The mint is now home to Freebridge Brewing.

The Dalles City Hall
The Dalles City Hall

In 1924, Bobbie the Wonder Dog stopped briefly in The Dalles while on his 2,600 mile (4,200 km) journey home by foot from Indiana to Silverton, Oregon. Emaciated and tired, he was aided by members of the community before moving westward through the Columbia Gorge.

Construction of The Dalles Dam in 1957 submerged the Long Narrows and Celilo Falls.

In 1963, Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was published featuring the narrator, Chief, who is from The Dalles.

In 1970, the Bonneville Power Administration opened the Celilo Converter Station near the northern terminus of the Pacific DC Intertie which sends 3,100 megawatts of electricity to Los Angeles.

In 1982 a curly-coated kitten was born on a farm in The Dalles owned by Linda and Dick Koehl. The Koehls used this kitten and her offspring to develop a new breed of cat called the LaPerm, which went on to become a popular, established, championship pedigree cat breed around the world.

In 1984 The Dalles was the site of the first and single largest bioterrorism attack in United States history.

In 1986, Penalty Phase, a film starring Peter Strauss and Melissa Gilbert, was filmed in and around The Dalles.


The Dalles from distance
The Dalles and the Columbia River showing surrounding landscape

Highways I-84, U.S. 30, and U.S. 197 meet in the city.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.61 square miles (17.12 km2), of which, 6.35 square miles (16.45 km2) is land and 0.26 square miles (0.67 km2) is water.


The Dalles is usually classified as a cool semiarid (Köppen BSk) climate region. However it has some characteristics of the midlatitude oceanic climate that dominates west of the Cascade Mountains, combined with seasonal precipitation patterns very similar to those found in Mediterranean climates. The city's location in the eastern Columbia Gorge results in there being numerous microclimates within a few miles of town. Winters are significantly wetter, and summers significantly cooler, to the immediate west while upland locations to the south are significantly cooler in all seasons. The generally warm and dry summers near town make it the ideal climate for the many Bing cherry orchards in the area.

The summer season runs from mid-June through early September and is quite warm by Pacific Northwest standards; however, summer weather often oscillates between intense heat waves and much cooler and windier periods. Except for the occasional sporadic thunderstorm, there is almost no summer rainfall.

From late September through early November, the area experiences an abrupt autumn during which normal temperatures drop very rapidly and cloudy, wet weather quickly picks up. Prior to the sudden onset of the rainy season in mid- to late fall, there are often days with a very wide disparity between daytime and nighttime temperatures, sometimes exceeding 20 C / 36 F. There is far less wind in the fall than in spring and early summer, though passing frontal systems can still bring quick bouts of strong wind.

Winter is the wet season in The Dalles. Despite the rain shadow effect created by the Cascades, there is still enough precipitation most years to support relatively high soil moisture levels for most of the winter. This is a very similar pattern to what happens in classic Mediterranean climates - except that the temperatures are significantly colder. The area receives measured snowfall virtually every year, but the snow totals fluctuate dramatically from one year to the next; some seasons see only one or two brief light snow events while others get major snowstorms and cumulative totals of 50 cm (20 in.) or more. Average winter temperatures are only about 2–3 C (3–5 F) degrees colder than in cities such as Portland and Seattle, and temperatures below −20 C (−4 F) are very rare, but not unheard of. As in the summer, winter temperatures can vary tremendously from one day to the next: during arctic air events the daytime high temperatures will generally be well below 0C / 32F, while a strong subtropical push can raise temperatures into the 50s and low 60s F, even in January. It is quite common for relatively cold air to become trapped at low elevations due to an inversion above; depending on the temperature of the surface airmass, depth of the inversion layer, and temperatures above the inversion layer, this can result in snow, sleet, freezing rain or a very cold liquid rain.

Springtime conditions generally run from late February through early June, during which time the overall trend gradually becomes warmer and drier and the landscape briefly turns lush and green. This is the windiest season of all, with a powerful west wind on most afternoons. During stormy periods in spring it is usually cloudy and cool while most sunny and calm days become intensely warm, especially from April onward. Spring temperatures often vary more from one week to the next than they do from one month to the next.

The growing season is roughly 200 days in a typical year, generally running from early April through most of October. However spring frost dates can range from mid-March to early May, and fall frost dates from late September to mid-November.

Climate data for The Dalles Muni Airport (1981-2010) (extremes 1948–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 68
Average high °F (°C) 42.2
Average low °F (°C) 31.0
Record low °F (°C) −14
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.50
Source: NOAA


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 802
1870 942 17.5%
1880 2,232 136.9%
1890 3,239 45.1%
1900 3,542 9.4%
1910 4,880 37.8%
1920 5,807 19.0%
1930 5,833 0.4%
1940 6,266 7.4%
1950 7,676 22.5%
1960 10,493 36.7%
1970 10,423 −0.7%
1980 10,820 3.8%
1990 11,060 2.2%
2000 12,156 9.9%
2010 13,620 12.0%
2019 (est.) 15,761 15.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 13,620 people, 5,472 households, and 3,441 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,144.9 inhabitants per square mile (828.2/km2). There were 5,903 housing units at an average density of 929.6 per square mile (358.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.9% White, 0.5% African American, 1.5% Native American, 1.0% Asian, 0.8% Pacific Islander, 5.7% from other races, and 2.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 17.0% of the population.

There were 5,472 households, of which 30.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.1% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.4% had a male householder with no wife present, and 37.1% were non-families. 31.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 2.99.

The median age in the city was 39.7 years. 23.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.3% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.1% were from 25 to 44; 25.8% were from 45 to 64; and 17.9% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.4% male and 51.6% female.

Arts and culture

Carnegie Library in The Dalles Oregon
Former Carnegie library, currently The Dalles Art Center

Annual cultural events

The Northwest Cherry Festival is held in The Dalles in April.

Museums and other points of interest

Rajneeshee Movement

In 1984, The Dalles was the scene of a bioterrorist incident launched by members of the Rajneesh Movement in an attempt to gain control of the local government of Wasco County. Salmonella placed in ten restaurants resulted in 751 cases of Salmonellosis. It was the first known bioterrorism attack of the 20th century in the United States. The circumstances of the attack are documented in an American Medical Association article (JAMA Vol 278, No 5, page 389, 6Aug1997).

Sister cities

The Dalles has one sister city:

  • Japan Miyoshi City, Japan (formerly Ikeda)


In 2006, Google began building a major data center, known locally as Project 02, along the Columbia River in The Dalles, using the area's reliable hydroelectric power and the underutilized fiber optic capacity of the area. The new complex includes two buildings, each approximately the size of a football field, and two cooling plants, each four stories high. The project promised hundreds of jobs in the area, mainly in construction, with an additional 200 permanent positions expected later in 2006 although as of 2013 Google employed only 150 combined company employees and contractors in The Dalles.

Top employers

As of 2012, the top 15 employers in The Dalles according to the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District report on "Largest Employers in Wasco County" are:

# Employer # of employees
1 Mid-Columbia Medical Center 915
2 North Wasco County School District 360
3 Oregon Cherry Growers 275
4 State of Oregon 243
5 Fred Meyer 230
6 Oregon Veteran's Home 208
7 Columbia Gorge Community College 200
8 Wasco County 181
9 Google 150
10 Safeway 142
11 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 125
12 City of The Dalles 100
13 Home Depot 100
14 Cousin's Country Inn 100
15 Orchard View Farms 90


The Dalles is home to Oregon School District 21. Originally 2 school districts; District 9 in the Chenoweth area and District 12 which included much of The Dalles.

District 21 includes 3 elementary schools: Colonel Wright Elementary, Chenoweth Elementary and Dry hallow Elementary. District 21 is also home to The Dalles Middle School and The Dalles High School.

St Mary's Academy is a k-8 school affiliated with the Catholic Church in The Dalles.

Columbia Lutheran School is a Christian elementary school of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod in The Dalles.

The Dalles is also home to the main campus of Columbia Gorge Community College which began in 1977 as Wasco Area Education Service District. It is a leading institution in renewable energy technology education and training.

Notable people

  • Homer D. Angell, Republican U.S. congressman, 1939–1955
  • Lefty Bertrand, Major League Baseball player
  • John Callahan, cartoonist, grew up in The Dalles
  • H. L. Davis, Oregon's only Pulitzer Prize winner in literature with Honey in the Horn (1936)
  • Ken Dayley, Major League Baseball player
  • Alan Embree, Major League Baseball player
  • Shemia Fagan, Democratic State Senator for Portland and Candidate for Oregon Secretary of State.
  • Jennifer Lyon, Survivor: Palau contestant
  • Todd Nelson, retired touring professional tennis player
  • Wilma Roberts, local photographer who lived and worked at the Elite Studio, later called "Mel O's" in The Dalles
  • Greg Walden, Republican congressman from OR-02.
  • Philip Whalen, a poet associated with the Beat Generation, grew up in The Dalles

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