Deschutes County History

Map of Oregon with a section near the center blacked out to represent Deschutes County. Deschutes County was created from the western portion of Crook County on Dec. 13, 1916. It was named for the Deschutes River which flows through the county. Early fur traders called the river Riviere des Chutes, which means "River of the Falls." The county encompasses 3,055 square miles and is located in the center of the state. Geographically, the county includes portions of the Cascade Mountains and the central high desert plateau. It is bounded by Jefferson County to the north, Crook County to the east, Klamath and Lake Counties to the south, and Lane and Linn counties to the west.

The county seat is located in the city of Bend which was incorporated in 1905. The name Bend was derived from "Farewell Bend," the designation used by early pioneers to refer to the location along the Deschutes River where the town eventually was platted. County offices were first located in two rooms of the O'Kane Building and later moved into an office building constructed by the Deschutes County Investment Company. The county court met there from 1917 to 1935. A county jail was completed 1918. In 1935 the county court decided to purchase the old brick high school to serve as the courthouse. In 1937 the courthouse and most of the early county records were destroyed by fire. The greatest loss of records was in the county clerk's office. The state fire marshal investigated the cause of the fire, but arson was never proved. A new courthouse was constructed in 1940 and an addition was built in 1978. The Deschutes Services Center opened in 2004 and houses county offices including the clerk, assessor and commissioners.

The first meeting to organize county government was held in the O'Kane Building. Appointments were made for the positions of district attorney, county judge, two commissioners, clerk, assessor, treasurer, surveyor, superintendent of schools, coroner, physician and sheriff. The county judge position, which had juvenile jurisdiction, was abolished in 1971 and replaced by a third county commissioner. In that year the county court administrative system was replaced by the three-member board of commissioners. 

Principal industries in the county are tourism, timber, and agriculture, chiefly cattle and potatoes. The destination resort, Inn of the Seventh Mountain, and the resort communities of Black Butte and Sunriver, were developed in the 1970s. The Mount Bachelor ski area and High Desert Museum add to the tourism-based economy. Additional resorts and golf courses have been added in recent years. The first county census in 1920 reported a population of 9,622 inhabitants. Despite a significant downturn caused by the recession of 2008, Deschutes County experienced the most rapid growth of any county of the state in recent decades. The 2011 population of 158,875 represented an increase of 0.7% over 2010.

Three story square building looks like it's made from white marble.
The Deschutes County Courthouse in Bend was built in 1940 to replace one destroyed by fire. Most county offices are now housed in nearby buildings. (Oregon State Archives Scenic Image 20070924-1103​)

Deschutes Services Center

1300 NW Wall St.
Bend, OR 97701
Clerk: 541-388-6549
Courts: 541-388-5300
Visit Deschutes County website >​

​​​​Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Calm lake with banks cloaked in darkness the sun peeks our from behind a hill as it sets.
Sunset at Paulina Lake in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. (Photo No. desDA0004b)
Volcano lovers should visit the Newberry National Volcanic Monument in Deschutes County. The centerpiece of the monument is Newberry Crater, a caldera that may have once looked much like Crater Lake. It's possible the caldera held a lake up to 1,600 feet deep. And the activity isn't over. Scientists think Newberry Crater may produce the next volcanic eruption in the area.
The monument also features Lava River Cave where visitors walk through the lava tube cave for over a mile. For real solitude, walk to the end of the cave, turn off your flashlight and experience complete silence and darkness. (Sources: Oregon Geographic Names | Newberry National Volcanic Monument​)