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Gilliam County is in the heart of the Columbia Plateau wheat area. The economy is based mainly on agriculture, with an average farm size of about 4,200 acres. Wheat, barley and beef cattle are the principal crops. The largest individual employers in the county are two subsidiaries of Waste Management Inc., Chemical Waste Management of the Northwest and Oregon Waste Systems, Inc., two regional state-of-the-art waste disposal landfills. The County seat is at Condon.
With elevations of over 3,000 feet near Condon in the south of the county and 285 feet at Arlington, 38 miles north, the county offers a variety of climates and atmosphere. Hunting, fishing and tourism are secondary industries. Two major rivers, the John Day and Columbia, traverse the area east-to-west, as well as Interstate 84. Highway 19 connects the county's major cities north-to-south and serves as gateway to the John Day Valley.