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Harney County, Oregon

Harney County, Oregon
Harney County Courthouse in Burns
Map of Oregon highlighting Harney County
Location in the state of Oregon
Map of the United States highlighting Oregon
Oregon's location in the U.S.
Founded February 23, 1889
Seat Burns
Largest city Burns
 • Total 10,226 sq mi (26,485 km2)
 • Land 10,133 sq mi (26,244 km2)
 • Water 93 sq mi (241 km2), 0.9%
Population (est.)
 • (2014) 7,126
 • Density 0.7/sq mi (0/km²)
Congressional district 2nd
Website .us.or.harney.cowww

Harney County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 census, the population was 7,422,[1] making it the fifth-least populous county in Oregon. The county seat is Burns.[2] Established in 1889, the county is named in honor of William S. Harney, a military officer of the period, who was involved in the Pig War and popular in the Pacific Northwest.

It is included in the eight-county definition of Eastern Oregon. Harney County is Oregon's largest county in area; it is larger than six U.S. states.


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
    • Adjacent counties 2.1
    • National protected areas 2.2
  • Demographics 3
  • Politics 4
  • Economy 5
  • Communities 6
    • Cities 6.1
    • Census-designated place 6.2
    • Unincorporated communities 6.3
  • See also 7
  • Footnotes 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


The Native Americans living in this region at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition were the Northern Paiute, who fought with the Tenino and Wasco peoples. Peter Skene Ogden was the first known European to explore this area in 1826 when he led a fur brigade for the Hudson's Bay Company.

Harney County was carved out of the southern two-thirds of Grant County on February 25, 1889. A fierce political battle, with armed "night riders" who spirited county records from Harney to Burns, ended with Burns as the county seat in 1890.

The Malheur River Indian Reservation was created by executive order on March 14, 1871, and the Northern Paiute within the Oregon state boundaries were settled there. Descendants of these people form a federally recognized tribal entity, the Burns Paiute Tribe, which had 341 members in 2008.[3] Fewer than 35.5% of the tribal members live on the Burns Paiute Indian Colony near Burns.[3] The tribe earns revenue from a small casino, the Old Camp Casino, and renting out communal tribal lands for grazing rights to local ranchers.


Sign welcoming drivers to Harney County

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 10,226 square miles (26,490 km2), of which 10,133 square miles (26,240 km2) is land and 93 square miles (240 km2) (0.9%) is water.[4] It is the largest county in Oregon by area and the tenth-largest county in the United States (excluding boroughs and census areas in Alaska).

Steens Mountain is the county's most prominent geographical feature, rising 9,700 feet (3,000 m) above sea level and spanning many miles across a region that is otherwise fairly flat. To its southeast is the Alvord Desert—the driest place in Oregon[5]—and the Trout Creek Mountains, which extend south into Nevada. South of Steens Mountain, the Pueblo Mountains are another remote range in Oregon and Nevada. North of Steens Mountain lies the Harney Basin, which contains Malheur Lake and Harney Lake.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas


As of the census[11] of 2000, there were 7,609 people, 3,036 households, and 2,094 families residing in the county. The population density was 1 people per square mile (0/km²). There were 3,533 housing units at an average density of 0 per square mile (0/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 91.93% White, 3.97% Native American, 0.51% Asian, 0.13% Black or African American, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 1.30% from other races, and 2.09% from two or more races. 4.15% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 21.1% were of German, 11.1% American, 10.3% Irish and 9.7% English ancestry according to Census 2000.

There is a small, but significant Spanish Basque community.[12]

Approximately 75% of the population of Harney County lives in the Burns-Hines municipal district. Crane is the only other localised population center, with less than 7% of the population of Harney County. Lawen and Riley have no localised populations. The remaining population of Harney County is dispersed throughout the countryside, mostly dwelling on large ranches.

There were 3,036 households out of which 29.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.00% were married couples living together, 6.80% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.00% were non-families. 25.90% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.94.

In the county, the population was spread out with 26.00% under the age of 18, 6.40% from 18 to 24, 26.60% from 25 to 44, 26.10% from 45 to 64, and 15.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 102.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.20 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,957, and the median income for a family was $36,917. Males had a median income of $27,386 versus $21,773 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,159. About 8.60% of families and 11.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.70% of those under age 18 and 13.90% of those age 65 or over.


Like all counties in eastern Oregon, the majority of registered voters who are part of a John Kerry, and 1.3% of voters either voted for a Third Party candidate or wrote in a candidate.[14]



Three industries have traditionally provided the county's economic base: ranching, sheep raising, and timber. The railroad, which extended into the area in 1883, served as a catalyst to the cattle industry but later contributed to its decline. By bringing farmers and sheep men to the area, it created increased competition for productive land. Harvesting and breeding of wild horses was lucrative for a period. Harney County shares the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the nation with Grant County. Its abundance of game, numerous campsites and excellent fishing have stimulated fast-growing recreational activities.

Although county lands were open to homesteading from 1862 to 1934, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management still owns more than 3 million acres (12,000 km2), or 62%, of the lands within the county boundaries. Facilitated on the national level by the Carey act of 1894, arid land in Harney County was donated to the state for irrigation and settlement, but all water development efforts failed.

Eventually all land claims filed under the reclamation legislation were abandoned or nullified. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1908 and expanded in 1936. The refuge now includes 159,872 acres (646.98 km2). Borax has been mined in the Steens area, and uranium has been found on its south side.



Census-designated place

Unincorporated communities

See also


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Wadatika Today". Burns Paiute Tribe. September 15, 2008. Retrieved April 8, 2013. 
  4. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  5. ^ Lorain, Douglas (2011). 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon (Second ed.). Seattle, Washington: The Mountaineers Books. p. 239.  
  6. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  7. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  9. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved February 25, 2015. 
  11. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  12. ^ Etulain, Richard W. "Basques".  
  13. ^ "Harney County, Oregon, General Election – (Official Results)" (PDF). Harney County. November 4, 2008. Retrieved April 21, 2009. 
  14. ^ Retrieved on 4/21/09
  15. ^ "Voter Registration by County: March 2009" (PDF). Oregon Secretary of State. April 10, 2009. p. 1. Retrieved September 22, 2014. 

Further reading

  • George Francis Brimlow, Harney County, Oregon, and Its Range Land. Burns, OR: Gail Graphics, 1980.
  • Dorsey Griffin, Starting at the Narrows: A History of Harney County, Oregon. Netarts, OR: Griffin Press, 1990.
  • Harney County Chamber of Commerce, A Lively Little History of Harney County: A Centennial Souvenir Album, 1889-1989. Burns, OR : Harney County Chamber of Commerce, 1989.
  • Harney County Historical Society, Harney County Historical Highlights. Burns, OR: Harney County Historical Society & Museum, 1997. —Periodical.
  • Royal G. Jackson and Jennifer A. Lee, Harney County: An Historical Inventory. Burns, OR: Harney County Historical Society, 1978.
  • Margaret Justine Lo Piccolo, Some Aspects of the Range Cattle Industry of Harney County, Oregon, 1870-1900. MA thesis. University of Oregon, 1962.
  • Karen Nitz and Claire McGill Luce, Harney County. San Francisco, CA: Arcadia Pub., 2008.
  • Peter K. Simpson, The Community of Cattlemen: A Social History of the Cattle Industry in Southeastern Oregon, 1869-1912. Moscow, D: University of Idaho Press, 1987.
  • An Illustrated History of Baker, Grant, Malheur and Harney Counties, with a Brief Outline of the Early History of the State of Oregon. Chicago: Western Historical Publishing Company, 1902.

External links

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