Multnomah County, Oregon

Multnomah County, Oregon

Multnomah County Courthouse in Downtown Portland

Map of Oregon highlighting Multnomah County
Location in the U.S. state of Oregon
Map of the United States highlighting Oregon
Oregon's location in the U.S.
Founded December 22, 1854
Seat Portland
Largest city Portland
  Total 466 sq mi (1,207 km2)
  Land 431 sq mi (1,116 km2)
  Water 34 sq mi (88 km2), 7.4%
Population (est.)
  (2015) 790,294
  Density 1,705/sq mi (658/km²)
Congressional districts 1st, 3rd, 5th
Time zone Pacific: UTC-8/-7

Multnomah County /məltˈnmə/ is one of 36 counties in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 census, the county's population was 735,334.[1] Its county seat, Portland, is the state's largest city.[2] Multnomah County is part of the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Metropolitan Statistical Area, and though smallest in area, it is the state's most populous county.[3]


Multnomah County (the thirteenth in Oregon Territory) was created on December 22, 1854, formed out of two other Oregon counties the eastern part of Washington County and the northern part of Clackamas County. Its creation was a result of a petition earlier that year by businessmen in Portland complaining of the inconvenient location of the Washington County seat in Hillsboro and of the share of Portland tax revenues leaving the city to support Washington County farmers. County commissioners met for the first time on January 17, 1855.[4] The county is named after the Chinook word for the "lower river", Multnomah and Matlnomaq being alternative, interpretive English spellings of the same word. In Chinook Jargon, Ne-matlnomaq, means the "place of matlnomaq" or the (singular) Ne-matlnomag, "the lower river", from the Oregon City Falls to the Columbia river. The explorer William Clark wrote in his Journal: "I entered this river...called Multnomah...from a nation who reside on Wappato Island, a little below the enterence" (quoted from Willamette Landings by H.M. Corning). Note that Clark refers to Sauvies Island as Wappato Island and the lower Willamette River as Multnomah. Simply put, Multnomah or "down river" is the shortened form of nematlnomaq, meaning "the down river".

In 1924, the county's three commissioners were indicted and recalled by voters "in response to 'gross irregularities' in the award of contracts for construction of the Burnside and Ross Island bridges"; since all three had been supported by the Ku Klux Klan, their recall also helped reduce that organization's influence in the city.[5]

Vanport, built north of Portland in 1943 to house workers for Kaiser Shipyards, was destroyed by a flood five years later.

In 1968, the Oregon Legislative Assembly referred a bill, Ballot Measure 5, to voters that would amend the state constitution to allow for consolidated city-county governments when the population is over 300,000.[6] The 1968 voters' pamphlet noted that Multnomah County would be the only county in Oregon affected by the measure and voters approved the referendum in the 1968 general election.[6][7] Since the approval of Measure 5 in 1968, an initiative to merge the county with Portland has been considered and placed on the county ballot several times.[8][9][10] The merger would have formed a consolidated city-county government like that of San Francisco, California. None of these proposals has been approved.

Since 2000

In the 2000 presidential election, Multnomah played a decisive role in determining the winner of the state's electoral votes. Al Gore carried the county by more than 104,000 votes, enough to offset the nearly 100,000-vote advantage that George W. Bush had earned among Oregon's 35 other counties. The Democratic tilt was repeated in 2004, when John Kerry won by 181,000 votes, and in 2008 when Barack Obama won by 204,000 votes.

In February 2001, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners unanimously accepted the recommendation of the Library Advisory Board and authorized the library to enter into a lawsuit to stop the Children's Internet Protection Act.[11] The US Supreme Court ultimately decided in 2003 that the law was constitutional in US v. ALA. However, the library chose to turn down $104,000 per year of federal funding under CIPA to be able to continue to offer unfiltered Internet access.[12][13]

Faced with decreasing government revenues due to a recession in the local economy, voters approved a three-year local income tax (Measure 26-48) [14] on May 20, 2003 to prevent further cuts in schools, police protection, and social services.[15] Multnomah County was one of the few local governments in Oregon to approve such a tax increase.

On March 2, 2004, Multnomah County Chair Diane Linn announced the county would begin granting licenses for same-sex marriages, pursuant to a legal opinion issued by its attorney deeming such marriages lawful under Oregon law. Her announcement was supported by three other commissioners (Serena Cruz, Lisa Naito, Maria Rojo de Steffey), but criticized by Lonnie Roberts, who represents the eastern part of Multnomah county and was left out of the decision.[16] Within a few days, several groups joined to file a lawsuit to halt the county's action.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 466 square miles (1,210 km2), of which 431 square miles (1,120 km2) is land and 34 square miles (88 km2) (7.4%) is water.[17] It is the smallest county in Oregon by area. It is located along the south side of the Columbia River.

The county includes a number of extinct volcanoes in the Boring Lava Field. The Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge forms the eastern portion of the county's northern border.

Major highways

Adjacent counties

National protected area


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 2015790,294[18]7.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[19]
1790-1960[20] 1900-1990[21]
1990-2000[22] 2010-2015[1]

2000 census

As of the 2000 census, there are 660,486 people in the county, organized into 272,098 households and 152,102 families. The population density is 1,518 people per square mile (586/km²). There are 288,561 housing units at an average density of 663 per square mile (256/km²). The racial makeup of the county is 79.16% White, 5.70% Asian, 5.67% Black or African American, 1.03% Native American, 0.35% Pacific Islander, 4.03% from other races, and 4.07% from two or more races. 7.51% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. 16.0% were of German, 9.0% English, 8.8% Irish and 5.1% American ancestry. 83.5% spoke English, 6.3% Spanish, 1.7% Vietnamese and 1.3% Russian as their first language.

There are 272,098 households out of which 26.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.9% are married couples living together, 10.8% have a female householder with no husband present, and 44.1% are non-families. 32.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.6% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.37 and the average family size is 3.03.

In the county, the population is spread out with 22.30% under the age of 18, 10.30% from 18 to 24, 33.80% from 25 to 44, 22.50% from 45 to 64, and 11.10% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 35 years. For every 100 females there are 98.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 96.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county is $41,278, and the median income for a family is $51,118. Males have a median income of $36,036 versus $29,337 for females. The per capita income for the county is $22,606. 12.70% of the population and 8.20% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.40% of those under the age of 18 and 9.80% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 735,334 people, 304,540 households, and 163,539 families residing in the county.[23] The population density was 1,704.9 inhabitants per square mile (658.3/km2). There were 324,832 housing units at an average density of 753.2 per square mile (290.8/km2).[24] The racial makeup of the county was 76.5% white, 6.5% Asian, 5.6% black or African American, 1.1% American Indian, 0.5% Pacific islander, 5.1% from other races, and 4.6% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 10.9% of the population.[23] In terms of ancestry, 19.4% were German, 12.2% were Irish, 11.4% were English, and 4.2% were American.[25]

Of the 304,540 households, 27.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.6% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 46.3% were non-families, and 32.6% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 3.03. The median age was 35.7 years.[23]

The median income for a household in the county was $49,618 and the median income for a family was $62,956. Males had a median income of $45,152 versus $38,211 for females. The per capita income for the county was $28,883. About 11.3% of families and 16.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.1% of those under age 18 and 12.1% of those age 65 or over.[26]

Law and government

Presidential election results 1960-2016[27]
Year Republican Democratic
2016 17.0% 67,655 73.3% 291,283
2012 20.9% 73,306 75.8% 265,938
2008 20.6% 75,171 76.7% 279,696
2004 27.1% 98,439 71.6% 259,585
2000 28.2% 83,677 63.5% 188,441
1996 26.3% 71,094 59.2% 159,878
1992 24.2% 95,561 55.3% 165,081
1988 36.5% 95,561 61.6% 161,361
1984 45.2% 119,932 54.3% 144,179
1980 39.2% 101,606 46.5% 120,487
1976 44.4% 112,400 51.0% 120,487
1972 46.7% 118,219 49.6% 125,470
1968 43.9% 106,831 51.2% 124,651
1964 33.5% 81,683 66.1% 161.040
1960 50.5% 127,271 49.3% 124,273
Elected officials
Appointed officials

Map of Multnomah County legislative districts


The principal industries of Multnomah County are manufacturing, transportation, wholesale and retail trade, and tourism. Since Oregon does not have a sales tax, it attracts shoppers from southwest Washington.

The Port of Portland, established in 1891 and combined with the City of Portland's Commission of Public Docks in 1971, ranks third in total waterborne commerce on the West Coast, and 31st in the nation for total tonnage according to the 2009 American Association of Port Authorities' Port Industries Statistics.[37] Portland is one of the five largest auto import ports in the nation and is the West Coast's leading exporter of grain and lumber. The Port of Portland is also responsible for Portland International Airport (PDX) in the northeast section of Portland, the Troutdale Airport a few miles east of PDX in Multnomah County, the Hillsboro Airport to the west in Washington County, and Mulino State Airport to the south in Clackamas County.

Out of the 199 cities and counties located in the five West Coast states, Multnomah County ranked 198th in private sector job creation from 1997 to 2009.[38]

The Multnomah County Library has a small impact on the county budget: the county library, which supplies Internet service to area libraries, turns down $104,000 per year in federal funding starting in 2004, so that it does not have to comply with the Children's Internet Protection Act, so as to maintain unfiltered Internet access.


The county is home to a number of Portland-area attractions and venues, including Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland Art Museum, Memorial Coliseum, Oregon Convention Center, Moda Center, Providence Park, Washington Park, Oregon Zoo, International Rose Test Garden, Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland Japanese Garden, and Pittock Mansion.

It is also home to the Historic Columbia River Highway, Multnomah Falls, and Oxbow Regional Park.

Cultural influence

The county was the birthplace of the Multnomah Community Ability Scale, used in mental health programs throughout the U.S.



Unincorporated communities

Former communities


  1. 1 2 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 15, 2013.
  2. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  3. "Oregon Almanac: Abbreviation to Counties". Oregon Blue Book. State of Oregon. Retrieved 2007-07-04.
  4. "Oregon Historical County Records Guide:Multnomah County History". Oregon State Archives. Retrieved 2009-08-01.
  5. Genovese, Fran (2009-02-19). "Politicians and scandal: a Portland-area tradition". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  6. 1 2 Oregon Blue Book (2009). "Initiative, Referendum and Recall: 1958-1970". Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
  7. Oregon Secretary of State (1968). "State of Oregon Voters' Pamphlet General Election 1968" (PDF). Oregon State Library. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
  8. Briem, Chris. "Some Major City-County Consolidation Referenda in the 20th Century". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  9. Senator Lim (1997). "Relating to city-county consolidation; creating new provisions". Oregon Legislative Assembly. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  10. Bogstad, Deborah (1999). "Multnomah County March 30 & April 1, 1999 Board Meetings". Multnomah County, Oregon. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  11. "Children's Internet Protection Act; Questions and Answers". Multnomah County Library. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  12. Mitchell, Renee S. (May 5, 2004). "Once again, policy did not involve public". The Oregonian.
  13. "Children's Internet Protection Act; Questions and Answers". Multnomah County Library. December 23, 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  14. "May 2003 Special Election - Multnomah County - Measure No. 26-48". Multnomah County Elections.
  15. "May 20, 2003 - Election Results". Multnomah County Elections.
  16. "Oregon News homepage". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
  17. "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  18. "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  19. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  20. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  21. Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  22. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  23. 1 2 3 "DP-1 Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  24. "Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2010 - County". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  25. "DP02 SELECTED SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  26. "DP03 SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS – 2006-2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  27. Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved on 2016-11-18.
  28. "Deborah Kafoury takes office as Multnomah County Chair". June 5, 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  29. "Jules Bailey". Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  30. "Loretta Smith". Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  31. "Judy Shiprack". Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  32. "Diane McKeel". Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  33. "District Attorney's Office homepage". Retrieved 22 November 2010.
  34. "District Attorney's Office homepage". Retrieved 22 November 2010.
  35. "Auditor's Office". Retrieved 22 November 2010.
  36. "Demographic and Economic Profile Fourth Judicial District OR Circuit Courts".
  37. "Port Industry Statistics". American Association of Port Authorities. Retrieved August 1, 2011.
  38. "Portland's Economic Recovery and the Role of Trade". Friday Forums. City Club of Portland. December 2, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  39. Archived February 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
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Coordinates: 45°32′N 122°25′W / 45.54°N 122.41°W / 45.54; -122.41

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