Heppner, the county seat for Morrow County, is the gateway to the western portion of the Blue Mountains and provides easy access to nearby mountain recreation areas. The community is nestled in a small valley surrounded by rolling hills, which match the green Irish spirit of the town in spring and ripen to a gold glow throughout the summer months. Agriculture and forestry provide the base for the economy of this community of over 1,500 residents.
The Morrow County Courthouse was constructed in 1902-1903 to replace the original Courthouse which was a two-story wood framed structure that had been a gift from the citizens of Heppner. The building is one of the oldest continuously used courthouses in the State of Oregon.
In addition to an annual St. Patrick’s festival which attracts hundreds of followers, one of Heppner’s claim to fame is the 1903 flash flood that almost destroyed the city. The June 14 event was caused by a sudden cloudburst and accompanying hail that created a debris dam collapse and flash flooding, primarily on Willow Creek. Considered the deadliest natural disaster in Oregon's history a wall of water and debris swept down the creeks and canyons and through the city. It has been estimated that 238 people or a quarter of the city's population was drowned. Property damage was reported at nearly $1,000,000. Lexington and Ione, located downstream from Heppner also sustained significant damage.
Short grass prairie covers the surrounding hills disguising the thick layer of coarse Grande Ronde basalt rock that flowed over this country 15 million years ago. More fertile soils are deposited in riparian areas near Willow and Hinton Creeks. Northern harriers are commonly seen cruising the hills for ground squirrels, and deer are often spotted in the yards or parking lots throughout town along with the occasional sighting of a coyote or badger on the outskirts of town. Your ride can be interrupted by the shrill call of nesting upland sandpipers and if you rise early enough you may catch the great blue heron and kingfisher’s daily commute up Willow Creek to the reservoir for hunting time.
The visitor amenities within Heppner are many. The city boasts several restaurants and one motel and RV park and several coffee shops featuring espressos and lattes. A full service grocery store also offers sandwiches and other “quick” meals. A public restroom is available in the city park.