A Rainy Day Hike through Oregon History


Champoeg Park is on the Willamette River about 20 miles south of Portland. By a vote of 52-50 in 1843 by the settlers of the area, Oregon became a provisional territory of the United States.

There was a city at Champoeg (cham-poo-e’) at one time, but several floods in the late 1800s destroyed most of the buildings. The settlers deployed some commonsense and moved to higher ground. (In those days there was no FEMA, or other taxpayer-funded entities, to pay for rebuilding their homes on the floodplain.)

As I parked at the rest area in late November, rainfall was lightly drumming on the windshield. After walking around a large pond over the trail formed by the endless rain, I visited the pavilion and monument commemorating the 1843 event. Next a short loop to the west along the river was followed.

The cottonwood trees were very large, as big as any I have ever seen. After returning to the pavilion, I began hiking to the east on a cinder path, which soon turned to a paved lane along the River.

The Trail passed a log cabin, detoured to an 1845 pioneer woman’s gravesite and explored a nature hike loop. A Blacktail doe and two fawns were spotted in the dense brush. Except for some movement on their part, I never would have seen them. Then began the two-mile trek behind La Butte to Butteville, a scenic little town on the Willamette River.

After taking a break at the Butteville Store, originally opened in 1863, I began the hike back to the Trailhead.

All in all the hike was 8.4 miles in length with several hundred feet of elevation gain. Squirrels, songbirds, Blacktail deer and skeins of geese added to the pleasure of the hike.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Marshy area along trail

Marshy area along trail

Path through a rain-drenched meadow

Path through a rain-drenched meadow

Pioneer woman's grave site

Pioneer woman’s grave site

Licorice Ferns on a Maple tree

Licorice Ferns on a Maple tree

Cottonwood trees lining the Willamette River

Cottonwood trees lining the Willamette River

Blacktail Deer Doe

Blacktail Deer Doe

Categories: Portland Area HikesTags: , , , ,

4 comments

  1. Beautiful photos as always, john. I love that place in the fall, didn’t think about the winter, wetter months. What portion of your route was paved?

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  2. Love it.

    I too question the wisdom of subsidizing people to live in flood-prone areas. If private insurance refuses the coverage, society should pay attention to that market signal.

    Sorry for the tangential comment.

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    • In the 1800’s and early 1900’s people didn’t have any expectation that the Federal government would bail them out for free if they built on a flood plain. Things began to change dramatically when FDR became president.

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