Columbia Gorge 2020 Population Growth Below Oregon Trend

by Dallas Fridley

February 24, 2021

Portland State University’s Population Research Center recently released their preliminary population estimates for Oregon, its counties and incorporated cities. These data are still preliminary and subject to public comment and review for about one month. Historically, there have not been large changes between the preliminary and final published figures. Newly released numbers show the Columbia Gorge gained 240 new residents over July 1, 2019 to July 1, 2020, with population in the five-county region rising to 58,160, a one-year increase of 0.4%.

Oregon’s population grew by 31,655 residents in 2020 to total 4,268,055, an increase of 0.7%. Since July 1, 2010, Oregon’s population gained 430,755 residents, an increase of 11.2% over the decade or 1.1% annually.
The Columbia Gorge rose by 5,465 residents over the decade, an increase of 10.4% or about 1.0% annually. The Columbia Gorge entered the decade on a moderate growth trend, rising by 755 residents over 2011 to 2012, producing a two-year increase of 1.4%. Five years of steady growth followed from 2013 to 2017, with population in the Columbia Gorge rising within a narrow range of 1.4% to 1.5% annually. The Columbia Gorge region added 4,070 residents over 2013 to 2017, producing a five-year growth rate of 7.6% and exceeding Oregon’s 6.6% by a full percentage point. Population growth in the Columbia Gorge slowed considerably over 2018 to 2020, rising by just 640 residents or 1.1% in three years, well below Oregon’s 3.1% increase.

Counties, Cities, and Towns

Hood River County led the Columbia Gorge over the decade, producing a population increase of 14.5%, well above Oregon’s 11.2%. The City of Cascade Locks led Hood River County’s incorporated areas, rising by 24% or 275 residents over 2011 to 2020 to total 1,420. The City of Hood River increased its population base by 1,385 to total 8,565 residents, achieving a growth rate of 19.3%. Unincorporated areas grew by 1,595 residents or 11.3% over 2011 to 2020. Unincorporated areas absorbed nearly half (49%) of Hood River County’s population growth over 2011 to 2020. The vast majority of Hood River County’s 25,640 residents, about 61%, lived in an unincorporated area in 2020.
Wasco County’s population rose by 2,060 residents over 2011 to 2020, an increase of 8.2%. The Dalles, Wasco County’s largest city, led its growth, rising by 1,215 residents or 8.9% over the decade to total 14,845. The Dalles absorbed about 59% of the county’s population growth over the decade. Unincorporated areas welcomed 750 new residents, an increase of 7.5%. Unincorporated areas provided a home for about 40% of the county’s residents in 2020. The City of Mosier rose by 55 residents over the decade to total 490 in 2020, Duffer increased its population by 20, Maupin added 15, and Antelope welcomed five.

Gilliam County’s population held steady in 2020 with 1,990 residents. Over the decade Gilliam County grew by 120 residents or 6.4%, well below Oregon’s 11.2% increase. Unincorporated areas led the county, rising by 90 residents or 15.5% to total 670. Arlington rose by 30 residents over the decade while Condon and Lonerock held steady. About one-third of Gilliam County’s population lived in an unincorporated area in 2020.

Sherman County led the Columbia Gorge in 2020, with a population gain of 1.4% or 25 residents to reach 1,795. Sherman County lost 15 residents in 2018 and 15 more in 2019, resulting in a loss of five residents or 0.3% over 2018 to 2020. Over the decade, Sherman County’s population rose by just 30 residents or 1.7 percent. The City of Rufus led Sherman County, rising by 40 over the decade to total 290, an increase of 16%. Both Moro and Wasco rose by 15 residents over the decade, while Sherman County’s unincorporated areas lost 40 residents. Cities and towns were home to 68% of the county’s residents in 2020 while 32% lived in an unincorporated area.

Wheeler County’s population held steady in 2020 with 1,440 residents. The City of Mitchell gained 30 residents over the decade and unincorporated areas lost 30 – but Wheeler County’s population total held fast at 1,440. About 45 percent of Wheeler County residents lived in an unincorporated area in 2020. Fossil led towns and cities in 2020 with 475 residents, followed by Spray and Mitchell, each with 160.


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