Thursday, August 16, 2007
SW ~ Champoeg Park
Date visited: August 9, 2007
Agency: Oregon State Parks
Path Surface: asphalt, dirt, gravel, barkchips
Elevation gain/loss: 60 feet over the entire course, but you'll barely notice
Distance: around 10 miles
Ratings: Setting ++++ Calorie-burning++++
Directions: From I-5, take Exit 278 and head west. Follow the signs (that sometimes only indicate a state park).
Close to Portland, yet often forgotten, Champoeg State Park has much to offer in history, wildlife and natural areas. Walk or bike the several trails to experience the park, or make one grand circuit, which is described below. Plan on several hours so that you have time to look around. Bicycles are not permitted on some of the described route, but you could work out a nice combination of riding and walking if you bring a lock.
Begin at the Visitor's Center, where you can purchase your $3 state park day pass. Moving toward the visitor's center, turn left downhill onto the bike path, past the garden and barn, and to the road. Cross the road and continue right on the bike path for nearly ½ mile, passing towering oaks, and head toward the campground. Cross the bridge over Champoeg Creek and veer left on the bike path at a sign that says “Butteville General Store 2.4 miles.”
Shortly, you come to a left branch off the bike path, which goes to the plaque marking the Kitty Newell gravesite and a short nature trail. The gravesite is worth a look; take the nature loop only if you want to increase your mileage. There are a few woodsy views of the Willamette River, but you'll also see it later on.
Return to the bike path the way you came and turn left. Walk to the park appendage at the Butteville Store by crossing a wooden bridge and enjoying the forested continuation of the bike path. Upon reaching the end of the path, continue right, up the hill on the road (Schuler Rd.) At Butteville Rd, turn left on the wide shoulder and walk downhill to the store.
The Historic Butteville Store, founded in 1863, is reputed to be the oldest operating store in Oregon. The store is the last commercial vestige of the once thriving community of Butteville. Nowdays, during the summer, you can stop in for a cool drink and a snack, or just take a break on the porch.
Retrace your steps to and on the bike path the way you came. After re-crossing the wooden bridge, where the vegetation is not so tall, look for a dirt path at a break in the fence on the left where you can cross over into the campground and have a look around. Wander as you like through the 77-site camping area, then follow the signs to the campground exit.
On the main road, cross back over the Champoeg Creek bridge to a break in the fence onto a path signed “Champoeg Township Trail.” Continue on the path, curving around to the right. At a possibly unmarked intersection in the woods, with the river in front of you, turn left. At the township trail sign, first turn right and walk down onto the dock for a up close view of the river. Also notice the sign (way up high) showing the crest of the 1996 flood.
Retrace your steps back to the township trail sign, continue straight to the rail fence and turn on right on the path along the fence. Follow this path, and when it splits, take the right fork for shade and additional river views, the left fork for a view of pillars marking the location of the streets of the old Champoeg townsite. The two paths merge again at the Napolean/DeGrasse St. marker. Follow the trail to a parking lot, turn right and walk to the Pioneer Mother's Cabin and Museum (pictured above), which is open during limited hours. From the cabin, continue along the road, go around a barrier and walk up the gravel road to the Champoeg Memorial Building.
After taking a look around, take the stairs down on the right side of the building, again noting the evidence of a history of floods here (look up on the wall of the building). Turn left on the second path along the river. Follow this path, staying right at all intersections, as it loops back to another set of stairs. Go up the stairs, turn right, then left at the first intersection. At the next intersection, stay right to head back toward the Memorial Building, swerving to the right around it. At the water fountain, , veer right to the Oregon History Sign, then return to the main path, turning left down toward the parking lot. At the parking lot, turn left on the sidewalk, walk 50 feet and turn left on the bikepath. Follow the bike path as it veers right past a row of trees. Upon reaching the road, retrace your steps past the cabin through the parking lot to the bike path. Walk the bike path to a red yield sign, turn right across the road and follow that path back up to the visitors' center.
In additional to the historically significant sites here, many birds make this park home, including the struggling western bluebird. We did spot one today, in the campground. We also saw and heard several osprey. Other summer birdlife includes black capped and chestnut backed chickadees, white and red breasted nuthatches, red tail hawks, robins, bushtits, towhees, western wood peewee, Stellar's jays, Bewick's wrens, orange crown warblers, kingfishers, crows and turkey vultures.
For a park brochure, including a small map of the park, click here.