Compared to the rainy Willamette Valley of Western Oregon, the climate of the Eastern side of the state is a drier continental climate, with much greater temperature variations. As you’ll see from the pictures from the counties in our new Flickr Commons set, Extension in Northeastern Oregon, (aka Morrow, Grant, Wallowa, and Umatilla counties), the region is home to cattle that graze, wheat that grows, and bees that buzz.
For folks who have visited Oregon and traversed the state east/west or west/east, you know that the Cascades mountain range is a significant geographic feature! Historically, this meant that the Eastern region has been relatively isolated from Western Oregon.
“Early settlers floated down the Columbia River from The Dalles to reach Western Oregon. In 1845, Sam Barlow built a road around the south side of Mount Hood, which served as the final leg of the Oregon Trail. The Applegate Trail and Santiam Wagon Road were constructed soon after, connecting eastern and western Oregon in the southern and central parts of the state. In the early 20th century, Samuel Hill built the Columbia River Highway, allowing automobiles to pass through the Columbia River Gorge … Railroads began to be important as early as 1858 with the construction of the Oregon Portage Railroad” (Wikipedia, Eastern Oregon).
According to the Morrow County Extension Office,
“Morrow County is a rural north-eastern Oregon county, bordered the Columbia River at its Northern end and timbered by the Umatilla National forest on the southern border with stretches of desert, hills, flat-lands and creeks lying between.”
And, not surprisingly, the “major industries in Morrow County include timber, energy, food processing and a variety of agricultural crops including corn, potatoes, watermelons, grapes, wheat, canola, sheep, cattle and dairy products.” The Oregon Historical County Records Guide notes that, like many other counties in Oregon, Morrow was created from the western portion of Umatilla County and a small portion of eastern Wasco County in 1885, named for Jackson Lee Morrow,
“an early settler in the area and member of the Legislative Assembly when the county was created … [the city of] Heppner was almost destroyed by a flood on June 14, 1903. The flood was precipitated by a sudden cloudburst and accompanying hail that caused a dam collapse and flash flooding. A wall of water and debris swept down the creeks and canyons and through the town. It has been estimated that 247 people were drowned. Property damage was reported at nearly $1,000,000. The nearby towns of Ione and Lexington also sustained significant damage.”
Umatilla, the county with my favorite county name, was created in September 1862 out of a portion of Wasco County. According to the Oregon Historical County Records Guide, “Umatilla is an Indian term meaning ‘rippling water’ or ‘water rippling over sand’ and has provided the name both for the county and its major river.” Also according to the County Records Guide, the
“Umatilla Indian Reservation was established by the Treaty of Walla Walla in 1855. It became an 800 square mile home for the Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Cayuse tribes and is located immediately southeast of Pendleton.”
Umatilla County’s fertile land helps provide a strong agricultural base for the economy, with fruit, grain, timber, cattle, and sheep as important agricultural products. And for rodeo fans everywhere, make sure you travel in September to see the Pendleton Round-Up — let’er buck! Extension in the county is strong, with a commitment to connecting with the community through meetings, workshops, 4-H Youth Programs, short courses, tours, newsletters and one-on-one consultations.
Grant County, established in October 1864 and named for General Ulysses S. Grant (famous as a commander of the Union Army during the Civil War and stationed at Fort Vancouver). The county is home to the headwaters of the John Day River, a history of gold rushing after gold was discovered on Whiskey Flat, and The Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site. The Kam Wah Chung site in John Day
“explores the legacy of the Chinese workforce in Oregon. The site is based in a rustic building that was constructed as a trading post along the Dalles Military Road in the mid-1800s. Here Chinese herbal doctor Ing Hay administered traditional Chinese remedies to the Chinese gold-mine workers, pioneers, and others from a wide area… The museum contains thousands of artifacts and relics that illustrate the many uses of the site until the 1940s, including service as a general store, pharmacy, doctor’s office, Chinese temple, and home” (Grant County, Oregon Historical County Records Guide).
Like other counties in this region, the main industries are agriculture, livestock, forestry, and recreation. This is reflected in the services of the Grant County Extension Office, with a focus on agriculture, horticulture, range, forestry, youth development, family & community health, and nutrition & food preservation.
Wallowa County was established in February 1887 out of the eastern portion of Union County. This county, in the tippy top northeast corner of the state is known for its agriculture, livestock, lumber, tourism, and recreation. It is also the place where, in 1877,
“the younger Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, incensed at the government’s attempt to deprive his people of the Wallowa Valley, refused to be moved to an Idaho reservation. Several regiments of United States troops were dispatched to force him onto the reservation. After a number of battles and a thousand-mile retreat, Chief Joseph was compelled to surrender. He and the remnants of his band were removed to Oklahoma and later were relocated to a reservation in Washington State” (Wallowa County, Oregon Historical County Records Guide).
The Extension office in Wallowa is an excellent resource for publications pertaining to the history of the county, as well as the agriculture, industry, and the “Wallowa County Nez Perce Tribe Salmon Habitat Recovery Plan and Multi-Species Strategy.”