The story of Oregon is one of fresh starts. Wander through the fascinating history of the French Prairie area of Oregon, where settlers put down roots and started new lives at least a decade before the long line of famous wagon trains headed west.
Champoeg State Heritage Area
The Champoeg State Heritage Area includes Champoeg State Park as well as exhibits and museums highlighting an important piece of Oregon’s history. This is the site where Oregon’s first provisional government was formed in 1843. Almost 700 acres of forest, fields and wetlands recreate the landscape of a bygone era, where French-Indian settlers carved out a life and built a community. Tour the park’s visitor center and museum for a deep dive into pioneer life at Champoeg. Or take a guided walk and learn what happened to this once bustling town.
Stop in at the Historic Butteville Store. Founded in 1863, it is the oldest continuously operating retail establishment in Oregon. Stop by for snacks and a double scoop ice cream cone, or enjoy a four-course meal and live music at the store every Saturday night during the summer and select Saturdays during the winter months. The nearby Butteville Landing park is a restored riverfront area to take in Willamette River views and read about some of the local history. This river access point and dock is still under construction. In the near future, you will be able to access the Willamette River from the Butteville Landing for canoeing, kayaking, and standup paddle boarding.
Newell Pioneer Village and museum, located just west of the main entrance to Champoeg State Heritage Area, is home to four historic buildings — The Newell House, Pioneer Mother’s Memorial Cabin, Old Butteville Jail, and the Butteville Academy (a one-room school house). The Daughters of the American Revolution have lovingly restored the village, where you can explore a unique collection of artifacts from the mid-1800s. Any history buff — or a fashionista — will be impressed by the timeless gown collection featuring dresses worn by the first ladies of Oregon Governors dating back to the mid 19th century.
French Prairie Wineries
Lady Hill Winery is located in St. Paul, Oregon across from the Champoeg State Park. The 20-acre estate vineyard was started and is still operated by Elaine and Jerry Owen. They both reside on site in the historic Zorn house built in 1862. The lofty tasting room is open year-round and serves up their best of season wines from the bar as well as featured craft beer on tap. This is a fun stop along the Tri-County Wine Charm Trail where you can collect a wine glass charm to commemorate your Oregon wine country experience! Make a plan to attend one of their wildly popular summer wine dinners on a fifth-generation heritage farm from the 1850s. Make time to wander the vineyards outside and chill on the outdoor patio, where you will sip and swoon over the beautiful view.
Sineann Winery (pronounced shuh-NAY-uhn) is a small producer of highly intense wines made from grapes from the finest vineyards in the region. The tiny tasting room, which is adjacent to their wine making operation, is located in the same parking lot as Lady Hill Winery. Be sure to call ahead to reserve a tasting appointment and meet the winemaker, Peter Rosback.
French Prairie Gardens
While exploring French Prairie, pay a visit to the French Prairie Gardens. The fully operational family farm includes a scratch bakery, garden center, and acres of fruit orchards, berry fields and vegetable gardens. Almost every item sold in their market comes straight from the farm.
Lodging & Camping
The Champoeg State Park offers both RV and tent camping sites for individuals and groups. You can also rent a cabin or a yurt. The closest hotels and motels are located in Wilsonville, Oregon — only nine miles away. There are also a few bed and breakfast lodging establishments in the area.
Weddings & Event Venues in Champoeg State Heritage Area
The Newell House is a historic home built in 1852 for Robert and Rebecca Newell. This home was the only one to survive the great flood in 1861 that ravaged the Champoeg area. Looking to throw a country wedding (or any large group event) at a venue overlooking a heritage rose garden and perennial beds of blooms? A brick walkway provides a perfect “here comes the bride” moment. The main outdoor venue area can accommodate up to 200 guests. Small indoor weddings for up to 40 guests can be held inside Rebecca’s Tea Porch or in the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Cabin.
Lady Hill Winery provides a vast indoor and outdoor space for hosting a winery wedding or a wine-themed meeting. Intimate gatherings can also be hosted in one of the upstairs “vintage” rooms.
Champoeg State Park offers group camping sites, cabins and yurts as well as an indoor hall and several picnic shelters to host a farm country event.
Have questions about exploring Oregon’s French Prairie? Contact us and we’ll point you in the right direction.