County Seat: Courthouse, 701 Adams St., Fossil 97830
Phone: 541-763-2400 (General); 541-763-2541 (Court Administrator)
Population (2020): 1,440
Established: Feb. 17, 1899
Elev. at Fossil: 2,654'
Area: 1,715 sq. mi.
Average Temp.: January 35° July 66°
Assessed Value: $156,134,996
Real Market Value: $781,425,311
(includes the value of non-taxed properties)
Annual Precipitation: 14.66"
Economy: Livestock and tourism
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 Court—Judge Lynn Morley 2023; Clinton Dyer 2025, Rick Shaffer 2023; Dist. Atty. Gretchen M. Ladd 2025; Assess. Auralea Woods 2023; Clerk Brenda Snow Potter 2025; Justice of the Peace Robin Ordway 2027; Sheriff Mike Smith 2025; Surv. Jason L. Hatfield 2025; Treas. Sandra K. Speer 2023