2017 Columbia Gorge Population Growth Follows Oregon’s Trend

by Dallas Fridley

December 1, 2017

Portland State University’s Population Research Center recently released their preliminary population estimates for Oregon, its counties, and incorporated cities. The estimates are still preliminary and subject to public comment and review for about one month. From July 1, 2016 to July 1, 2017, the five county Columbia Gorge region’s population total rose by 845 new residents to reach 57,520, an increase of 1.5 percent.
Oregon’s population grew by 64,750 residents in 2017 to total 4,141,100, an increase of 1.6 percent. Since 2012, Oregon’s population gained 257,365 residents, an increase of 6.6 percent or 1.3 percent annually.

Population growth in the Columbia Gorge remained steady from 2013 to 2017, rising within a narrow range of 1.4 to 1.5 percent. Since 2012, the Columbia Gorge region has gained 4,070 residents, producing a growth rate of 7.6 percent. However, incorporated areas (cities and towns) in the Columbia Gorge grew at a much slower rate than unincorporated areas. Incorporated areas gained 895 residents since 2012, rising to 28,850, an increase of just 3.2 percent or 0.6 percent annually. Unincorporated areas grew at a much higher 12.4 percent rate since 2012 or 2.5 percent annually.

Unincorporated areas within the Columbia Gorge region represented just over half (50.2%) of its 2017 population total, with 28,850 residents. That wasn’t the case in 2012, when 52 percent of the region’s population lived in an incorporated city or town.

Counties, Cities and Towns

Hood River County led the Columbia Gorge Region in 2017, producing a one-year increase of 1.6 percent, matching Oregon’s population growth. The City of Cascade Locks led the county’s incorporated areas in 2017, rising by 4.6 percent or 60 residents to total 1,310. The City of Hood River gained more residents, rising by 120 to total 7,880, while producing a growth rate of 1.5 percent. Unincorporated areas absorbed the lion’s share of Hood River County’s growth, rising by 230 residents or 1.4 percent in 2017.

Since 2012, Hood River County gained 2,270 residents, an increase of nearly 10 percent. The vast majority of the county’s 25,145 residents, 63.5 percent, lived in an unincorporated area in 2017. Unincorporated areas absorbed 72.5 percent of Hood River County’s population growth between 2013 and 2017.
Wasco County’s population rose by 400 residents in 2017, an increase of 1.5 percent. Unincorporated areas absorbed essentially all of Wasco County’s growth, claiming 395 out of 400 new residents, an increase of 3.8 percent. The Dalles, Wasco County’s largest city, held its own in 2017 with 14,625 residents or a 54 percent share, sliding from 56 percent in 2013. Comparatively, unincorporated areas held a 40.2 percent share in 2017, an increase of nearly 2 percentage points over 2013.

Gilliam County’s population rose to 1,995 in 2017, an increase of 15 residents or 0.8 percent. Unincorporated areas led the county, rising by 20 residents or 3.0 percent to total 680. Since 2012, unincorporated areas have absorbed 80 new residents (+13.3%), leaving the county’s incorporated cities and towns with an increase of just 15 residents.

Sherman County managed a gain of just five residents in 2017 (+0.3%). From 2013 to 2017, Sherman County’s population rose by 35 residents or 2 percent to total 1,800. The City of Rufus led Sherman County, rising by 25 since 2012 to total 280 residents in 2017, an increase of 9.8 percent.

Wheeler County’s population rose by 15 residents in 2017 to total 1,480, an increase of 1 percent. The City of Mitchell produced a gain of 10 residents in 2017, climbing to 140 (+ 7.7%), just 10 above its 2012 total. Unincorporated areas absorbed most of the county’s population growth between 2013 and 2017, rising by 45 residents to total 705.

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