Located on the Crooked River, Prineville is a combination of fascinating history and scenic pristine outdoors with a variety of recreational opportunities including rockhounding, fishing, hiking, and boating.
Surrounded by hills and rock formation, Prineville quite literally sits on a volcano. The Crooked River caldera is an ancient, currently extinct, volcano, which last erupted about 29.5 million years ago. The caldera’s diameter of about 22 miles x 15 miles that makes it one of the biggest in the United States – and the city is nestled almost right in its middle.
The oldest city east of the Cascades, Prineville was incorporated on October 23, 1872. The city was a part of Wasco County until Crook County was created in 1882, with Prineville as the county seat. The city received name after Barney Prine, one of the first merchants who settled in the area.
The community was thriving until 1911, when the railway built by Oregon Trunk Railways and Union Pacific from the Columbia River southwards, bypassed the city. The business started leaving the area for the cities with better railroad access. Prineville, however, instead of resigning to its fate, raised money and built its own railway, which connected the town to the main line 19 miles away.
The city's railway became operational in 1918 and connected the town to Redmond, Oregon. After struggling at the beginning, the railroad managed to become profitable in 1939, with sawmills as its main customers. For that very reason, the railway’s revenues decreased dramatically, when the mills shut down in the 2000s. Today, the railway is still in use servicing some of the region’s industries.
Another noteworthy company connected to Prineville is Les Schwab Tire Centers, a major tire retail chain, which has been associated with the city since the company’s foundation in 1952. In 2006, Les Schwab announced the relocation of its headquarters to Bend, Oregon, resulting in the loss of 320 jobs for Prineville. For a city of slightly over 9,000 residents, that was a big blow. Prineville, however, managed to compensate that loss by Federal jobs with the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, while housing boom and developing tourist industry helped diversify the local economy.
Among other positive contributions to the city, an economy was a construction of Apple and Facebook data centers in the Prineville area. Crook County was hit by the Great Recession more than any county in Oregon. According to Judge Mike McCabe, administrator for Crook County, construction of the data centers that brought hundreds of temporary jobs “couldn't happen at a better time".
Top Things to Do & See
Crook County Courthouse
The oldest public structure of Central Oregon, the Crook County Courthouse was completed in 1909. The first wooden courthouse, built in 1885, was move off site. Constructed with brick and native basalt stone, the two floors building with a basement, an attic, and a tree-clock tower became one of the tallest state's structure.
A.R. Bowman Museum is a historical museum of the old west with two floors of interactive exhibits and displays.
246 N Main St, Prineville, OR 97754
Ochoco Wayside State Park
66-acre Ochoco Wayside State Park offers a picturesque view of Meadow Lakes Golf Course, Crooked River and Prineville itself from the top of the hill west of the town. There are several miles of singletrack mountain biking trails and hiking trails.
Meadow Lakes Golf Course
Surrounded by a beautiful scenery with blue ponds, green meadows, the Crooked River, and rolling mounds, the 18-hole Meadow Lakes is rated as one of the leading golf courses in Oregon. Initially, the golf course was built to solve problem disposing the wastewater that had being dumped into the river.
The nine ponds play a role of evaporation spots to prevent wastewater from contaminating the Crooked River. This ingenious solution to protect environment has been featured in multiple publications and the Meadow Lakes Golf Course received the inaugural Golf Digest Environmental Leaders Golf Award.
Located on the Crooked River, 14 miles southeast of Prineville, Prineville Reservoir is a great place to enjoy the 15-mile long reservoir surrounded by a beautiful high-desert scenery. Prineville Reservoir State Park offers 2 developed campgrounds with cabins, RV and tent sites. There are other primitive campsites along the reservoir's shoreline.
Prineville Reservoir is popular for water activities such as boating, waterskiing, windsurfing, and swimming. The reservoir provides great opportunities for fishing.
The four-mile-long, Ochoco Reservoir and dam has been formed for irrigation and flood control in 1920 on the Ochoco and Mill Creeks. Almost all shoreline is located on private land with exceptions of dam itself and the Ochoco Lake County Park with a campground and recreation area with swimming and boating opportunities.
Fishing for rainbow trout, bass and bluegill is available on the reservoir.
Prineville is known as the unofficial World Rock Hound Capital. Crook County is known as the most productive for rock and mineral collecting sites offering a variety of gem-quality minerals including famous thundereggs, petrified wood, limb casts, thunder eggs, agate, and jasper. Central Oregon Rockhounding Map can be purchased online or at the Prineville Chamber of Commerce.
Annually in June, Prineville hosts Rockhound Pow Wow Festival at the Crook County fairgrounds. Over 60 Dealers sell agate, jasper, petrified wood, obsidian, thundereggs, used and new lapidary equipment, gifts, and jewelry. Rockhounding field trips are available.