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Wheeler County, Oregon facts for kids

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Wheeler County
Wheeler County Courthouse in Fossil
Wheeler County Courthouse in Fossil
Map of Oregon highlighting Wheeler 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 February 17, 1899
Seat Fossil
Largest city Fossil
 • Total 1,715 sq mi (4,440 km2)
 • Land 1,715 sq mi (4,440 km2)
 • Water 0.5 sq mi (1 km2)  0.03%%
 • Total 1,451
 • Estimate 
 • Density 0.8/sq mi (0.3/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
Congressional district 2nd
Wheeler County
     U.S. Forest Service land      Bureau of Land Management land      National Park Service land      Wilderness area

Wheeler County is a county in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2020 census, the population was 1,451, making it Oregon's least populous county. It is named in honor of Henry H. Wheeler, an early settler who owned a farm near Mitchell. The county seat is Fossil, and Wheeler County is known for having Oregon's largest deposit of fossils.


Wheeler County was created on February 17, 1899, from parts of Grant, Gilliam, and Crook Counties. There have been no boundary changes since its creation. Fossil was designated the temporary county seat at the time of the county's creation. In 1900 there was an election to determine the permanent county seat between the three towns of the county, which ended with Fossil winning the election.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,715 square miles (4,440 km2), of which 1,715 square miles (4,440 km2) is land and 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) (0.03%) is water.

Adjacent counties

National Protected Areas

Major highway

  • U.S. Route 26
  • Oregon Route 19


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 2,443
1910 2,484 1.7%
1920 2,791 12.4%
1930 2,799 0.3%
1940 2,974 6.3%
1950 3,313 11.4%
1960 2,722 −17.8%
1970 1,849 −32.1%
1980 1,513 −18.2%
1990 1,396 −7.7%
2000 1,547 10.8%
2010 1,441 −6.9%
2020 1,451 0.7%
2021 (est.) 1,451 0.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2019

2010 census

As of the 2010 census, there were 1,441 people, 651 households, and 408 families living in the county. The population density was 0.8 inhabitants per square mile (0.31/km2). There were 895 housing units at an average density of 0.5 per square mile (0.19/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 92.4% white, 1.2% American Indian, 0.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific islander, 2.6% from other races, and 3.1% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 4.3% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 28.4% were German, 24.0% were English, 20.0% were Irish, and 8.4% were American.

Of the 651 households, 20.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.9% were married couples living together, 7.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 37.3% were non-families, and 32.4% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.18 and the average family size was 2.70. The median age was 53.0 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $33,403 and the median income for a family was $43,167. Males had a median income of $36,328 versus $31,792 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,598. About 9.1% of families and 11.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.0% of those under age 18 and 5.7% of those age 65 or over.



Unincorporated communities

Ghost town


Principal industries in this county are agriculture, livestock, and lumber.

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