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Add the Willamette Valley and Champoeg to your list of camping destinations

Brass band at Champoeg Park for Provisional Government re-enactment.
Brass band at Champoeg Park for Provisional Government re-enactment.Kathleen Sweeney

Having grown up in Portland, many people probably don't even consider the Willamette Valley as a camping destination. Who would go from their house in the city to stay in a tent in the same area? Does it offer anything to compete with the flashy glacier encrusted mountain or a brisk walk at the ocean's shore? Surprisingly the answer is yes! It's May and the Wildflowers are out. Seasonal birds have also arrived and since there's still a chill in the air, you can go camping before the crowds descend.

Camas in a variety of shades at Champoeg Park
Camas in a variety of shades at Champoeg ParkKathleen Sweeney

This weekend, Champoeg Park hosted a re-enactment of the formation of the Champoeg Provisional Government in 1843. The brass band struck up several numbers, period attired volunteers roamed the crowd and hosts and hostesses handed out free cookies in the shape of Oregon with a Green heart in the middle. The rifle salute was also a big hit.

A wildflower walk yielded fields of purple Camas and the occasional Blue Flag Iris. Gorgeous! A walk around the visitor's center offered glimpses of Goldfinches and Swallows. A Red-tailed Hawk and several Turkey Vultures swooped above the fields. The visitor center also shows a country cooking garden from 1860 with plants that would have been planted in those days.

Disc golf fields were full of enthusiastic players and there are several hiking trails. One trail takes you to the Butteville Store which serves up an excellent homemade cobbler, heated up, with ice cream or whipped cream as a topping.

Both cabins and yurts are available to rent but weekends could be booked up months in advance. Note that all yurts are in an open field and rumor has it that they get pretty warm. Cabins are back farther in the woods and are more likely to remain cool. All sleep five, but some suggest that two would be more comfortable. They have a pet friendly cabin available should you wish to bring Fido.

To get to Champoeg, go South on I-5 to exit 278, Ehlen Road toward Aurora. Turn right. Ehlen becomes Yergen, which becomes McKay. Take a sharp right on French Prairie, go .5 miles and turn right into the parking lot.