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Wasco County, Oregon facts for kids

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Wasco County
Wasco County Courthouse in The Dalles
Wasco County Courthouse in The Dalles
Map of Oregon highlighting Wasco 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 11, 1854
Named for Wasco people
Seat The Dalles
Largest city The Dalles
 • Total 2,395 sq mi (6,200 km2)
 • Land 2,382 sq mi (6,170 km2)
 • Water 14 sq mi (40 km2)  0.6%%
 • Total 26,670
 • Estimate 
26,726 Increase
 • Density 11/sq mi (4/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
Congressional district 2nd

Wasco County is one of the 36 counties in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2020 census, the population was 25,213. Its county seat is The Dalles. The county is named for a local tribe of Native Americans, the Wasco, a Chinook tribe who live on the south side of the Columbia River. It is near the Washington state line.

Wasco County comprises The Dalles Micropolitan Statistical Area.


Celilo Falls on the Columbia River served as a gathering place and major trading center for the local Native Americans, including the Wasco, Paiute, and Warm Springs tribes, for thousands of years. These rapids came to be named Les Grandes Dalles de la Columbia or "The Great Falls of the Columbia" by the French Canadian fur traders.

The Dalles served initially as a way station on the Oregon Trail as it approached the Willamette Valley. The construction of the Barlow Road over the Cascade Range in 1845, and the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 encouraged families to settle in the area. Over the following years, Wasco County was a major transportation hub for both river and inland traffic.

The Oregon Territorial Legislature created Wasco County on January 11, 1854, from the parts of Clackamas, Lane, Linn and Marion counties, that were east of the Cascade Range. At the time of its creation, it was the largest county in the United States, consisting of 130,000 square miles (340,000 km2) that stretched clear to the Rocky Mountains. Its northern border was the Washington Territory line (the Columbia River). When Dakota Territory (including present-day Wyoming) was created in 1861, Idaho Territory in 1863, and Montana Territory in 1864, the parts of Wasco County east of the present Oregon boundaries were ceded to those territories. Other Oregon counties were split away, and Wasco was reduced to its current size.

Wpdms oregon washington territories 1853
Oregon Territory is shown in blue. Everything east of the Cascades was part of the original Wasco County.
Dates of Secession of Other Eastern Oregon Counties
County Secession Date
Baker 1862
Umatilla 1862
Grant 1864
Lake 1874
Crook 1882
Morrow 1884
Gilliam 1885
Sherman 1889
Hood River 1908

The Dalles was designated the county seat with the creation of the county, and has been its only location.

The river traffic on the Columbia River was profoundly affected in 1935 by the building of Bonneville Dam in Multnomah County and by The Dalles Dam in 1957 in Wasco County (which submerged Celilo Falls).

Wasco County attracted international attention in the 1980s, when Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh went to the United States and settled for several years at a marginal ranch called "The Big Muddy", but later known as Rajneeshpuram. Disagreements over zoning rules and building codes in the beginning continued to escalate between not only his followers and the inhabitants of Wasco County, but eventually with the rest of the state. His followers, known as Rajneeshees, settled en bloc in Antelope, Oregon and were able to elect a majority of the town councillors. Acerbic, if not hostile comments by his spokeswoman, Ma Anand Sheela, only increased tensions, and were not helped by Rajneesh's vow of silence. When the Rajneeshees subsequently recruited homeless people from across the United States to settle at Rajneeshpuram, it was widely seen as an attempt to use the ballot box to seize control of the county. But perhaps the most bizarre turn of events was when an outbreak of salmonella in salad bars at ten restaurants in The Dalles was traced to the acts of his followers. About this time, Sheela was removed from her post in Rajneesh's service.

This chapter in the county's history finally ended in 1985, when Rajneesh was arrested as he was fleeing the U.S. On October 23, 1985, a federal grand jury in Portland had secretly indicted Rajneesh, Sheela, and six other of his followers for immigration crimes. Two days later, a Wasco County grand jury returned indictments against Sheela and two others, charging them with the attempted murder of Swami Devaraj, Rajneesh's personal doctor. Rajneesh entered an Alford plea and was given a suspended sentence on condition that he leave the country.

The former Rajneesh ranch is now known as "Washington Family Ranch". It is owned and operated by Young Life Ministries, a Christian organization providing camp services for youth.


Wasco County aerial
An aerial view of the county

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,395 square miles (6,200 km2), of which 2,382 square miles (6,170 km2) is land and 14 square miles (36 km2) (0.6%) is water. The northern boundary with Washington is the Columbia River (the state line).

Adjacent counties

National protected area

  • Mount Hood National Forest


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 1,689
1870 2,509 48.5%
1880 11,120 343.2%
1890 9,183 −17.4%
1900 13,199 43.7%
1910 16,336 23.8%
1920 13,648 −16.5%
1930 12,646 −7.3%
1940 13,069 3.3%
1950 15,552 19.0%
1960 20,205 29.9%
1970 20,133 −0.4%
1980 21,732 7.9%
1990 21,683 −0.2%
2000 23,791 9.7%
2010 25,213 6.0%
2020 26,670 5.8%
2021 (est.) 26,726 6.0%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2020

2010 census

At the 2010 census, there were 25,213 people, 10,031 households, and 6,540 families living in the county. The population density was 10.6 inhabitants per square mile (4.1/km2). There were 11,487 housing units at an average density of 4.8 per square mile (1.9/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 86.1% white, 4.4% American Indian, 0.8% Asian, 0.6% Pacific islander, 0.4% black or African American, 5.2% from other races, and 2.5% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 14.8% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 19.8% were German, 14.0% were English, 10.6% were Irish, 6.4% were American, and 5.0% were Swedish.

Of the 10,031 households, 29.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.4% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 34.8% were non-families, and 28.8% of households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.98. The median age was 41.7 years.

The median household income was $42,133 and the median family income was $50,279. Males had a median income of $40,658 versus $27,996 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,922. About 11.1% of families and 15.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.1% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over.


Incorporated cities

Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities


Old Grain Elevator (Wasco County, Oregon scenic images) (wascDA0037b)
Boyd Loop Road grain elevator on Fifteenmile Creek, Wasco County

The county's economy is based upon agriculture (orchards, wheat farming, livestock ranching), lumber, manufacturing, electric power, transportation, and tourism. Aluminum production was previously a major support of the local economy, but electrical price fluctuations and a slump in global aluminum prices has forced the closing of a number of local aluminum foundries.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Wasco para niños

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