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The County was named after Mount Jefferson, the second highest peak in Oregon with an elevation of 10,497 feet, which marks the County's western skyline. The County is bounded on the north by Wasco County, on the east by Wheeler and Crook Counties, on the south by Deschutes County, and on the west by Linn and Marion Counties.
Madras, named after the city in India, serves as the County seat.
Principle industries are agriculture, forest products, and recreation. The fertile North Unit Irrigation District in the central part of the county produces seed, potatoes, hay, and mint. The eastern part of the county has dry wheat farming and grazing land for cattle, and the western part is timber country. The Warm Springs Forest Product Industry owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation is the single largest industry.
Sprawling reservoir Lake Billy Chinook was named for a Chinook Indian boy who joined up with John C. Fremont's second expedition at The Dalles in 1843. Chinook accompanied Fremont (and Kit Carson of later fame) south through present day Central Oregon to California, including a harrowing journey across the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the heart of winter.