Hood River County History

Map of Oregon with section in northwest area blacked out to represent Hood River County.At the turn of the 20th century, the people of the Hood River region in the northwest portion of Wasco County expressed a desire for political separation from the parent county. The passage of a statewide initiative established Hood River as the 34th county of the state. It was made official by a governor's proclamation on June 23, 1908. Hood River County was named after the Hood River and Mt. Hood which are both located in its boundaries. Mt. Hood was named in 1792 after Lord Hood (Samuel) who served in the British Navy during the American Revolutionary War.

The county's boundaries have since remained unchanged. It is bordered by Wasco County to the east, by Clackamas and Multnomah Counties to the west, and by the Columbia River to the north. Hood River County is the 2nd smallest county by size in the state, outranking only Multnomah County, with a total area of 533 square miles.

The City of Hood River, first platted in 1881, is the county seat. The first county courthouse was an old primary school building. In 1937, after failing to approve a new courthouse, the county was forced to purchase the Butler Bank Building, which housed the county government until 1954 when the present courthouse was constructed. Most county administrative offices are now housed in the county's nearby Business Administration Building.

Initially, county officials included the county judge, two county commissioners, sheriff, clerk, treasurer, assessor, school superintendent, surveyor and coroner. In 1964, Hood River County adopted the home rule form of government. A five-member elected board of commissioners creates ordinances and resolutions to govern the county. The commission appoints a county administrator to oversee operations of county services. Except for an elected sheriff, all county department heads are selected by and responsible to the commission. Several specialized advisory boards, committees, and commissions give the board advice and recommendations concerning various county services.

The population of Hood River County in 2013 was 23,295. This was a 4.2% increase from 2010.

The first permanent settlers in Hood River County filed a donation land claim in 1854; by 1880 17 families lived in the region. By the late 19th century farmers of Japanese, Finnish, German and French ethnicity settled in the valley. The Columbia River Highway was completed in 1922 from Portland to The Dalles, making the towns of Hood River County more accessible to people and commerce from throughout the Columbia River Gorge and the state.

The principal industries of Hood River include agriculture, recreation, timber and hydroelectric production. The fertile Hood River Valley has an ideal climate for to produce apples, cherries, peaches and pears. It also offers recreational activities such as snow skiing, yachting and fishing which bring people and capital to compensate for the decline in logging and hydroelectric production. The Columbia River near Hood River is a premier windsurfing area and attracts windsurfers and kiteboarders from around the world.
Hood River County Courthouse, a 3 story building with pavement in front.
The Hood River County Courthouse was built in 1954. Earlier county government was housed in a bank building. Most county administrative offices are housed in the nearby Business Administration Building. (Oregon State Archives Scenic Image 20090509-0525​)

Business Administration Building

601 State St.
Hood River, OR 97031
Clerk: 541-386-1442
Courts: 541-386-3535
Visit Hood River County website >​

Starvation Creek Waterfall​​​​​​​​

Waterfall tucked between high rocks and lush vegitation in the Columbia Gorge.
A waterfall on Starvation Creek in the Columbia Gorge. (Oregon State Archives Scenic Image 20090622-0646​)
Accessible from eastbound Interstate 84 in western Hood River County, tiny Starvation Creek State Park is an oasis from the blur of the freeway. Its 180 foot high waterfall and adjacent trails highlight the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. 
The park's name tells of a desperate experience for travelers during a terrible blizzard. The Pacific Express train carrying 148 passengers and crew left The Dalles heading west on schedule to arrive in Portland later that day, Dec. 18, 1884. Along the way a blizzard trapped the train between two avalanches with 25 foot high snow drifts.
A relief party finally reached them on Christmas Day by foot. A week later the train was able to retreat to The Dalles. It finally reached Portland 3 weeks late on Jan. 7, 1885. (Source: Starvation Creek State Park​)