Principal industries of the county are lumber, fishing, agriculture and tourism. Newport, with Astoria, is one of the two major fishing ports of Oregon, both ranking in the top twenty of fishing ports in the U.S. Its port averaged 105 million pounds of fish landed in 1997-2000. Newport is home of Oregon State University's Marine Science Center, as well as the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and their fleet of ocean-going vessels.
Many of the other communities in Lincoln county depend on tourism as their principal source of income.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 3,092 km² (1,194 mi²). 2,537 km² (980 mi²) of it is land and 555 km² (214 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 17.95% water.
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 44,479 people, 19,296 households, and 12,252 families residing in the county. The population density is 18/km² (45/mi²). There are 26,889 housing units at an average density of 11/km² (27/mi²). The racial makeup of the county is 90.59% White, 0.30% Black or African American, 3.14% Native American, 0.93% Asian, 0.16% Pacific Islander, 1.66% from other races, and 3.23% from two or more races. 4.76% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 19,296 households out of which 24.40% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.50% are married couples living together, 10.00% have a female householder with no husband present, and 36.50% are non-families. 29.30% of all households are made up of individuals and 12.70% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.27 and the average family size is 2.75.
In the county, the population is spread out with 21.40% under the age of 18, 6.50% from 18 to 24, 23.50% from 25 to 44, 29.00% from 45 to 64, and 19.50% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 44 years. For every 100 females there are 94.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 90.10 males.
The median income for a household in the county is $32,769, and the median income for a family is $39,403. Males have a median income of $32,407 versus $22,622 for females. The per capita income for the county is $18,692. 13.90% of the population and 9.80% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 19.50% are under the age of 18 and 7.20% are 65 or older.
Lincoln County was created by the Legislative Assembly on February 20, 1893, from the western portion of Benton County and Polk County. The county adjusted its boundaries in 1923, 1925, 1927, 1931, and 1949.
At the time of the county's creation, Toledo was picked as the temporary county seat. In 1896 it was chosen as the permanent county seat. Three elections were held to determine if the county seat should be moved from Toledo to Newport. Twice these votes failed in 1928 and 1938. In 1954, however, the vote went in Newport's favor. While Toledo has remained the industrial hub of Lincoln County, the city has never regained the position it once had.
Like Tillamook County to the north, for the first decades of its existence Lincoln County was isolated from the rest of the state. This was solved with the construction of US Highway 101 (completed in 1925), and the Salmon River Highway (completed in 1930). In 1936, as one of many federally funded construction projects, bridges were constructed across the bays at Waldport, Newport, and Siletz, eliminating the ferries needed to cross these bays.
The northern part of Lincoln County includes the Siletz Indian Reservation, created by treaty in 1855. The reservation was open to non-Indian settlement between 1895 and 1925. The Siletz's tribal status was terminated by the federal government in 1954, but became the first Oregon tribe to have their tribal status reinstated in 1977. The current reservation totals 3,666 acres.