When we first arrived in Oregon as full time RVers we learned about the opportunities for volunteer work at Oregon State Parks. Champoeg State Heritage Area was the first park that we applied to be a host and what a fortunate choice that was. We hosted at this park both in the campground and the visitors center for a total of 6 years and we still do emergency gigs there. We have also spent many nights just camping because of the ideal location near Portland, OR.
Even if you are not interested in camping it is a beautiful place for group picnics for family, friends or businesses. The park has two spacious day-use areas that offer reservable group picnic areas as well as individual sites. Both areas are open year-round from 7 a.m. to sunset. The Riverside Day-use Area offers five group picnic areas with historic points of interest. The Oak Grove Day-use Area has six group picnic areas along with a disc golf course and a boating/ fishing dock.
Pioneer Memorial Building, Pavilion and Monument Plaza mark the spot where the park began. This is the site of the famous 1843 vote to form the first government in the Northwest; it’s also where the Hudson’s Bay granary stood, before floodwaters destroyed it in the great flood of 1861. The monument was erected in 1901, followed by the Pioneer Memorial Building in 1918. The Pioneer Memorial Building is available for rent for weddings and other celebrations. Call the Park for information regarding scheduling your event.
A four-mile bicycle trail begins in the Riverside Day-use Area, winds through meadows and along the river bank, and ends at the park’s Historic Butteville Store (open seasonally). A one-mile hiking trail passes the park’s historic townsite. The park offers a handy bike repair area at the entrance of the campground.
Each Fall the Friends of Champoeg sponsor an Apple Harvest Day. Volunteers in period dress offer visitors a chance to press and sample fresh apple cider, sample Dutch oven baked apple desserts and hot cider, string apple circles to dry at home, and bob for apples in the big washtub, or, weather permitting, play snap apple.
Day-use parking permits are required in the park year-round. You will need to display either a daily permit, a 12-month or 24-month permit, or your camping receipt, valid for the days you are registered. Daily and annual permits are sold at store.oregonstateparks.org.
The park is a must stop for visit if you are at all interested in the history of Oregon or of the North West in general.
History of Champoeg State Heritage Area
During the time that we spent at Champoeg we have enjoyed getting to know the Park and why this area is important in Oregon history. Champoeg became a park because of the many important history that happened at that location. This is where it was decided that Oregon would be part of the United States instead of Canada. Champoeg was the site of a momentous meeting of French Prairie settlers on May 2, 1843 which led to the establishment of provisional government for the Oregon Country. Only 2 votes decided that this area would be part of the United States instead of Canada.
The native Kalapuya people called Champoeg home hundreds of years before Lewis and Clark explored the Columbia River. The Kalapuya are one of 27 Native American tribes of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, and their present day reservation is in Yamhill and Polk counties. The Kalapuya tribe’s traditional homeland is in western Oregon from the Columbia River to the Calapooya Mountains at the Umpqua River.
This verdant floodplain has been a vibrant gathering place for native and European cultures and peoples for centuries thanks to its location along the Willamette River which spurred its development as a hub of early water and land transportation networks. The name “Champoeg” comes from the Kalapuyan word [??ámpuik], which might be an abbreviation of [??a-??íma-púi?uk], referring to the edible root [púi?uk], or yampa.
Champoeg State Heritage Area offers a unique combination of history, nature, camping and recreation. Situated on the south bank of the scenic Willamette River, it is located on 615 acres of rustic forests, fields and wetlands. It is part of a historic prairie that long has been a gathering place for the people who have lived here. First, native people came here to hunt and gather food and trade with other tribes. By the early 1800s, French Canadian fur trappers moved into the area and traded with the Native Americans on the open prairie. In the early 1840s, American settlers arrived over the Oregon Trail and established farms and a bustling frontier town called Champoeg which eventually was swept away in a devastating 1861 flood. The 1901 monument in Champoeg marking the spot where the first American government on the Pacific Coast was organized.
Champoeg State Heritage Area is a popular destination for its peaceful setting that also affords visitors a chance to explore hiking and biking trails, campsites and birds, such as bluebirds, ospreys and meadowlarks, and other wildlife.
The park offers interpretive programs about Native, Hudson Bay Company, and pioneer cultures for visitors of all ages. There are living history special events and recreational opportunities for hiking and biking, bird and wildlife watching, and camping. Tour the park’s visitor center, Newell House, and Pioneer Mothers Log Cabin museums to learn about pioneer life at Champoeg. You can take a guided walk to learn what happened to the bustling pioneer town of Champoeg, and how the Donald Manson Barn was built.
An 1860s-style garden lies next to the visitor center. The historic garden grows heirloom vegetables, herbs, and flowers to help visitors and volunteers connect with history and their community.
On a hillside west of the entrance to Champoeg State Heritage Area, above the banks of the Willamette River, stands the Newell Pioneer Village. Within the village are the Robert Newell House Museum, Pioneer Mothers Memorial Cabin, Butteville School and the Butteville Jail. The Pioneer Mothers Log cabin was built along the river in 1931 as a museum, was saved from erosion and rebuilt at its present location next to the Newell House. The reconstructed 1850s Newell House represents an appealing home of the era. The museum complex includes a mid-19th century school and a jail. Both museums are operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution, and have separate entrance fees.
A series of weekend interpretive programs is available late June through Labor Day weekend, and the Champoeg Promise program provides an interactive living history program for schoolchildren.
The park also includes the Historic Butteville Store founded in 1863. It is considered the oldest operating store in Oregon. The store is the last commercial vestige of the once thriving Willamette River community of Butteville. The store opens for the season in June and close for the season at the end of August. Check with the ark for hours of operation. This varies from year to year.
We have posted information about camping at Champoeg here.
How to get there