TLDR: This is a long post about our hike and some history at Champoeg State Park. Please do follow the links to read even more about the park and town!
On Friday we chose to go to Champoeg State Park at Kangaroo’s suggestion. It has many trails and a lot of neat history to learn about. It’s only about 20-30 minutes away from our town taking the back roads. We hiked around 9 miles.
Champoeg State Park is the site of the Champoeg State Heritage Area. The little town of Champoeg was quite hopping in its day in the 1840s-1850s, until 1861 when the Willamette River rose 55 feet above normal summer stage and flooded the town with over 7 feet of water. All the buildings were destroyed except for (of course) two saloons. All that’s there now are flat parts of a field with street signs erected by the park to show the town’s layout, and a monument put up in 1900 to the 52 men who voted to form a provisional government in 1843, a vote that eventually led to Oregon’s becoming a state. Unfortunately there are few photos left of the town. Oh, we enjoyed learning all the history! I hadn’t been to Champoeg since I was a girl and don’t think the visitor’s center was there back then, as I have always been fascinated by pioneer history and would have remembered seeing all the things.
The visitor center wasn’t open yet when we arrived, so we started in back of the center at the Manson barn and kitchen garden. (If you want to biggify the photos to see them more closely, right-click on the photo and click “Open image in new tab.”)
I love to see old kitchen gardens and this one even had kohlrabi! It’s like a turnip. I think Dad grew some in his garden when we were kids. There were a few kohlrabi and turnips left in the garden, as examples, I guess. We are definitely going to have to come back in summer when everything is growing and blooming! Kangaroo said they do reenactments and I’d love to see that too.
After we explored the Manson Farmstead, we headed down the trail to the rest of the park. There is a nice campground there and Kangaroo and her Hubs had stayed there a few weeks before. Quite a few RVs were at the campground, and some cabins were occupied. They also have yurts. The camp hosts have these little rock areas around their signs and there were some nice painted rocks.
There was also this neat playground at the campground! The sign said it is for ages 5-12, but we played a bit anyway…
We noticed different things that told us spring is near…
After we visited the playground and the campground restroom, we continued on to the historic Butteville store, now owned by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. It’s about 2 miles (?) from the campground. The paths are paved and easy to walk on, but you do have to go downhill to (and then back up from!) the Butteville store. This involved a couple of road walks, but there was plenty of room to be out of the way of the cars. We made it to the Butteville store, and in spite of a sign we had seen that talked about summer hours, it was closed. There was no notice on the outside that said when the summer hours start, so I looked it up when we got home and still couldn’t find anything about summer hours. Next time we go I will make sure that it is open, because it has ICE CREAM, and I know in the summer that will be just what we’d like in the middle of our hike! The store does offer a lunch menu as well.
Near the campground there is a side trail to the gravesite of Kitty Newell, the Nez Perce wife of Robert Newell. Many of the men, especially the mountain men and trappers in the area, married Native American women (or girls!) because they were well-suited to the nomadic life the men lived. Robert and Kitty married when Kitty was probably 13 or 14, and Kitty had five sons before she passed away in her mid-20s. The Daughters of the American Revolution laid this gravestone here where Kitty’s ashes were scattered, and they keep up the Newell Pioneer Village near the park.
We found the dock and Kangaroo went down to get a photo of the river.
The Parks Department has put up street signs to show where the town of Champoeg used to be, here is one of those signs.
When we got back to the visitor center the host lady invited us to watch a quick video about the Champoeg area and the meeting that led to them voting to start a provisional government. This is an original painting of that meeting, titled “The Birth of Oregon”. The painting is around 5 feet by 8 feet, I estimate. I wanted to photograph the informational signs about the painting, but the other people who watched the video with us were standing in front of the signs and I decided not to wait.
We had a very fun time hiking and learning the history of Champoeg. I can see that it would be a neat place to go camping in the summertime when they have a lot of activities going on. The paths are great for bike riding as well. We can’t wait to go back and explore more!
Just keep walking!