"Relatively Quiet Except in Summer, Nice Trails" Willamette Mission State Park by glabah

It is not known very well how established a community existed at this location before the arrival of Methodist Missionaries in 1834. The idea of establishing a mission here was to reach out to the Native American people of the region, and perhaps this location was selected due to a nearby Native American community. At that time the river was right next to the mission location, and most certainly that part of the location selection was to aid in transportation.

Unfortunately, Native Americans were in the middle of a substantial malaria epidemic, and orphaned children were regularly showing up at the mission house wanting help, as their entire communities were being destroyed.

The location of the mission at this location was determined to be a poor choice, as there were vast swarms of mosquitos (which is a significant problem during a malaria epidemic!) and in the 1840s the mission was relocated to a community that was called Chemeketa, but is now known as Salem.

With the removal of Native Americans to reservations distant from this area, the mission ceased to function as an outreach to Native Americans. Eventually, parts of the organizational institution were turned into what is now Willamette University.

With the departure of the Methodist missionaries in the 1840s, the buildings fell into disrepair. The enitre area around the mission was completely changed in a huge flood in the early 1860s, with even the Willamette River changing course (what is now Mission Lake inside the park was once the main river channel) and significant loss of historical buildings through the Willamette Valley. Most likely whatever remained at Willamette Mission was completely destroyed during that flood, which also completely washed away the original community of Champoeg.

Today, Willamette Mission State Park is considered an extremely important historical location for the state of Oregon, and to a lesser extent the settlement of the west coast. The park features horse trails, bike trails, hiking trails, boat launching ramps, and picnic facilities. There are several historical markers indicating the history of the area, and a fair amount of area has been set aside as wild lands for preservation. The Ghost Structure indicates the former location of the mission.

The USA's Largest Black Cottonwood is a feature of the park as well.

The Willamette Vision Educational Trail is a 2.5 mile loop that describes efforts to restore the natural habitat as well as have sustainable farmland in the park.

Keep an eye out for wildlife!!!! Cougars have been known to visit the park, and there is a whole set of instructions posted on how to deal with cougers. Follow them!

For bird watchers, you will want to keep a close eye on the various large nests from birds of prey, including osprey, red-tailed hawks, and bald eagles on those occasions when they decide to show themselves.

The Wheatland Ferry connects the northwest corner of the park to the west side of the river. It is possible to use either the park's bike paths or drive to the main entrance of the park from the east side of the river.

More information about the park is on the state parks web site:

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Far enough from Interstate 5 that it is hard to hear the traffic, and nearby roads aren't extremely busy.
  • Cons:"Willamette Mission" is long gone, so no historic pieces of the location remain. Can be very crowded on some good summer weekends.
  • In a nutshell:Decent place to relax and explore, but not really a tourist attraction of any sort.
  • Last visit to Willamette Mission State Park: Feb 2011
  • Intro Updated Feb 23, 2011
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Reviews (19)

Comments (5)

  • Odiseya's Profile Photo
    Dec 2, 2015 at 12:13 AM

    I enjoyed in virtual tour! It seems like interesting destination!

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Oct 12, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    The history of the founding of here is fascinating, and Civil War enactment up that way seems "unique" for the territory. YOu did a very nice presentation of the sites and the pictures taken are great.

  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo
    Jul 11, 2010 at 6:48 PM

    Informative and well-researched tips. I've read all about the Spanish missions on the west coast, but have never heard of Methodist missions!

  • Faiza-Ifrah's Profile Photo
    Aug 16, 2009 at 4:37 PM

    1st state park of USA i just read about where cougars are sighted. i liked the tips and the pics are absolutely great. thanks for sharing so much of information. and btw, i liked your motto too :-)

  • atufft's Profile Photo
    Oct 5, 2008 at 8:15 PM

    Thanks for the update on one of the earliest pioneer structures in Oregon. So sad to learn that absolutely nothing is left--not even archeological digs?


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