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Eastern Oregon

Eastern Oregon population according to the 8 county definition.

Eastern Oregon is the eastern part of the U.S. state of Oregon. It is not an officially recognized geographic entity, thus the boundaries of the region vary according to context. It is sometimes understood to include only the eight easternmost counties in the state; in other contexts, it includes the entire area east of the Cascade Range. Cities in the broadest definition include Baker City, Bend, Burns, Hermiston, John Day, Klamath Falls, La Grande, Ontario, and The Dalles. Major industries include timber, agriculture, and tourism, with the main transportation corridors consisting of I-84, U.S. Route 395, U.S. Route 97, U.S. Route 26, U.S. Route 30, and U.S. Route 20.

Compared to the climate of Western Oregon, the climate of Eastern Oregon is a drier continental climate, with much greater seasonal variations in temperature. Unlike the Willamette Valley, Eastern Oregon receives a significant amount of snow in the winter. Some parts of Eastern Oregon receive fewer than 10 inches (250 mm) of rain yearly, classifying them as deserts. This desert climate is in part due to a rain shadow effect caused by the Cascade Range. Pine and juniper forests cover 35% of Eastern Oregon, much in the mountains that include the Blue Mountains, Strawberry Mountains, Wallowa Mountains, Trout Creek Mountains, Ochoco Mountains, and Steens Mountain. Volcanic basalt flows from the Columbia River Basalt Group covered large sections of Eastern Oregon 6 to 17 million years ago. Other landforms include the Alvord Desert, Owyhee Desert, Warner Valley, Deschutes River, Owyhee River, Grande Ronde River, Joseph Canyon, The Honeycombs, and Malheur Butte.


  • Geography 1
  • Politics 2
  • Cities 3
  • Climate and ecology 4
  • Economy 5
  • Recreation 6
  • Transportation 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9


Mountains and glacial lake in Wallowa County attract tourists to the area.
Downtown Burns
Downtown Pendleton

According to the Eastern Oregon Visitor's Association, Eastern Oregon includes only the following counties: Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Grant, Baker, Harney, and Malheur.[1] Other definitions of the region are sometimes more restrictive,[2] others include the base eight counties listed above plus several adjacent counties,[3][4] while some definitions include the entire area east of the Cascade Range;[5] this meaning would also include Sherman, Crook, Deschutes, Gilliam, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Wasco, and Wheeler counties.

The extreme eastern section of Oregon in the Snake River Valley, including Ontario, is part of the Treasure Valley, which extends east to Boise, Idaho; unlike the rest of the state, that section lies within the Mountain Time Zone. Sacajawea Peak is the region's highest mountain.


Although Oregon as a whole is generally considered a Blue State, Eastern Oregon is far more conservative. In the 2012 Presidential Election, Mitt Romney received at least 60% of the vote in every county in Eastern Oregon.[6]

The political divide between the eastern and western parts of the state have led some residents of Eastern Oregon to feel that the state of Oregon, with the majority of its population and political control based in the western part of the state, has neglected the eastern part of the state, preventing it from developing along with the western part. A movement to have Eastern Oregon secede and join the United States as a 51st state was underway in 2008.[7] This movement is similar to other Northwest secession proposals such as Jefferson, Lincoln, and Cascadia.


Top 15 most populated Eastern Oregon Cities (according to the 8 county definition)

City Population[8]
Hermiston 16,745 Umatilla
Pendleton 16,612 Umatilla
La Grande 13,082 Union
Ontario 11,366 Malheur
Baker City 9,828 Baker
Milton-Freewater 7,050 Umatilla
Umatilla 6,906 Umatilla
Nyssa 3,267 Malheur
Boardman 3,220 Morrow
Burns 2,806 Harney
Union 2,121 Union
Stanfield 2,043 Umatilla
Enterprise 1,940 Wallowa
Vale 1,874 Malheur
Irrigon 1,826 Morrow

By extending the boundary outside to include neighboring counties, Eastern Oregon would include four of the largest population centers east of the Cascade RangeBend, Redmond, Klamath Falls, and The Dalles. However, these lie outside the stricter boundary.

Climate and ecology

Compared to the maritime rainforest climate of Western Oregon, which is adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, the climate of Eastern Oregon is a drier continental climate, with much greater seasonal variations in temperature. Unlike the Willamette Valley, Eastern Oregon gets a significant amount of snow in the winter. Some parts of Eastern Oregon receive fewer than 10 inches (250 mm) of rain yearly, classifying them as deserts. The driest parts are the southeast and the area near Redmond. This desert climate is in part due to a rain shadow effect caused by the Cascade Range. Pine and juniper forests cover 35% of Eastern Oregon, especially in the mountains east of Klamath Falls and in the Blue Mountains.

Freshly tilled wheat fields on western edge of wheat growing area in central Wasco County


The region's economy is primarily agricultural. Timber and mining, while formerly key industries, have decreased in importance in recent years. Historical tourism is on the rise. The wheat growing region of Eastern Oregon includes the Columbia Plateau portion of northeastern Oregon, which begins with very marginal wheat fields in central Wasco County and extends east through Umatilla County. South of the wheat lands of northeast Oregon, agricultural activity is generally limited to livestock grazing except where irrigation is available. Irrigated areas are often used to produce alfalfa hay.


Eastern Oregon offers recreational opportunities like skiing, rafting, and hiking. From the beautiful scenery of the high desert to the rugged mountainous areas of the Eagle cap wilderness area, Eastern Oregon provides a wide range of environments to recreate in.

Anthony Lakes is located south of Pendalton and is the largest ski resort in Eastern Oregon. The ski resort offers both lift service and cat skiing. [9]


Rafting is often seasonal on the rivers that are snow pack dependent and not dammed. The Owyhee River is a beautiful example of a pristine desert canyon river experience. The Snake River offers a boating experience that ranges from a quiet drift through the desert to hair-raising thrills of class II to III+ rapids.


The John Day River passing by Sheep Rock in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Historically, the region has been relatively isolated from Columbia River Gorge.

Railroads began to be important as early as 1858 with the construction of the

  1. ^ "Eastern Oregon Visitor's Association". Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  2. ^ "Frommer's: Eastern Oregon". Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  3. ^ Explore Eastern Oregon. Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. Retrieved on October 26, 2007.
  4. ^ Eastern Oregon. Guide to Oregon. Retrieved on October 26, 2007.
  5. ^ Are Introduced Plants Common in Eastern Oregon Forests? United States Forest Service. Retrieved on October 26, 2007.
  6. ^ "US Election Atlas, Oregon 2012 Presidential Election". US Election Atlas. 
  7. ^ Wright, Phil (2008-04-25). "Group eyes Eastern Oregon as 51st state".  
  8. ^ "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010". 2010 Demographic Profile Data.  
  9. ^ The resort has three lifts that offer access to over 1500 acres of dry Eastern Oregon powder.
  10. ^ Spout Springs is located in the Umatilla National Forest in the heart of the Blue Mountains in Northern Oregon. The ski area, favored by beginners and families looking for a day on the snow, boasts four lifts serving 11 downhill trails and 21 Nordic tracks on 250 skiable acres.
  11. ^ a b c d Armbruster, Kurt (1999). Orphan Railroad: The railroad comes to Seattle, 1953-1911. Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press. pp. 63, 80.  
  12. ^ from
  13. ^ Engeman, Richard H. Subtopic : Revival Styles, Highway Alignment: 1890-1940: One Big City, Many Small Towns. The Oregon History Project. Retrieved on October 29, 2007.
  14. ^ Tonsfeldt, Ward and Paul G. Claeyssens. Subtopic : Post-Industrial Years: 1970-Present: Tourism and Recreation. The Oregon History Project. Retrieved on October 29, 2007.


See also

Major road routes through eastern Oregon include Interstate 82 that ends at the Columbia River in Umatilla. U.S. Route 395 is a major North-South route, passing through Pendleton, Burns, John Day, and Lakeview. Further west, U.S. Route 97 runs North and South from the California border through Klamath Falls, Bend, and Redmond to Biggs Junction on the Columbia River. Other major east-west routes include U.S. Route 26, U.S. Route 30, U.S. Route 20 and U.S. Route 730.

All-weather highways over the Cascade Mountains were not completed until the 1930s and 1940s.[13][14]

The only other railroad ever built east over the Cascade Mountains was trackage that was to become part of the Southern Pacific Transportation Company which was opened in 1926 over Willamette Pass to Klamath Falls[12] to bypass the difficult line south of Eugene, Oregon to Ashland, Oregon.

. Union Pacific Railway providing rail service that essentially paralleled the Oregon Trail all the way from Omaha, Nebraska. Later the OR&N became part of the [11]Huntington was completed across southern Idaho, and met the OR&N at Oregon Short Line A year later in November 1884, the [11] forever ending the isolation of at least the northern portion of Eastern Oregon.Wallula, Washington The first St. Paul-Portland Northern Pacific train arrived in Portland on September 12, 1883, via OR&N trackage down the Oregon side of the Columbia River from [11]

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