Wheeler County


natural rock formations
Rock formations at the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument on Highway 218. (Oregon State Archives Photo)
County Seat: Courthouse, 701 Adams St., Fossil 97830
Phone: 541-763-2400 (General); 541-763-2541 (Court Administrator) 
Fax: 541-763-2026


Population (2018): 1,450
Established: Feb. 17, 1899
Elev. at Fossil: 2,654'
Area: 1,715 sq. mi.
Average Temp.: January 35°     July 66°
Assessed Value: $145,000,000
Real Market Value: $220,000,000 (includes the value of non-taxed properties)
Annual Precipitation: 14.66"
Economy: Livestock and tourism

Related Resources

"County QuickFacts" (population and economic data from U.S. Census Bureau)
County Seat Map (from Google Maps)
County Map (from ODOT)

Incorporated Cities

Points of Interest

Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds, John Day River

History and General Information 

Wheeler County was formed by the Oregon Legislature in 1899 from parts of Grant, Gilliam and Crook counties and was named for Henry H. Wheeler, who operated the first mail stage line from The Dalles to Canyon City. The new county consisted of 1,656 square miles with an estimated 46 townships, a population of 1,600 and taxable property worth one million dollars.

Wheeler County is as rugged and uneven as any Oregon county, with the terrain varying widely from sagebrush, juniper and rim rock to stands of pine and fir. Portions of two national forests lie within its boundaries with forest lands covering nearly one-third of the county. The area is probably best known as one of the most outstanding depositories of prehistoric fossils on the North American continent.

County Officials

County Court—Judge Lynn Morley 2023; Rob Ordway 2021, Rick Shaffer 2023; Dist. Atty. Gretchen Ladd 2021; Assess. Auralea Wood 2023; Clerk Alicia Hankins 2021; Justice of the Peace Robin Ordway 2021; Sheriff Mike Smith 2021; Surv. Jason Hatfield 2021; Treas. Sandra K. Speer 2023