Friday, July 27, 2018

Champoeg State Heritage Area and Aurora, Oregon

Our drive from Crater Lake to the Champoeg State Heritage Area was one of the longer ones we have done in the last few months: almost 300 miles! 

If you follow this blog, you know I am a fan of Jane Kirkpatick. My primary reason for stopping at Champoeg was to go over and visit the small town of Aurora, and see what is left of the Old Colony that was featured in one of her trilogies.

I was not disappointed.

It was fun for me to see many of the items mentioned in her fictionalized experiences of Emma Wagner Giesy.

For example this is a "tower of bells" that was from Germany and was carried in front of important processions, such as marriages and funerals.

Making quilts was a very important part of a pioneer woman's social life. Often women would get together to work on a quilt. For my modern quilting friends, all of this was done by hand! No long-arm machines existed. 

The Aurora Colony was a religious commune in which individual households were maintained, but work and wealth were shared. This was the interior of the "Wash House." An early version of the laundromat? 

Porta Potty of the past! But this one was a two-seater. I wonder about that, did more than one person use it at a time? Was this the equivalent of a two bathroom house?

The  campground at Champoeg is about ten miles from Aurora and has its own history. It was the site of a town that had been established on the high banks of the Willamette River, somewhat earlier than the Aurora Colony. Unfortunately it flooded out and was destroyed, not once but twice before it was abandoned.

We explored the Visitors Center. The fur trade was one of the reasons for the early settlement. 

Behind the VC was a "Pioneer Kitchen Garden"

I have heard of Amaranth, but have never seen it growing before, and didn't know it was cultivated by Oregon pioneers. The seed from this plant can be ground into a gluten free flour and used much like wheat flour. I had read that wheat did not grow very well because of the wet climate.

There was also a nice Concord Grape arbor. 

The grapes were still green, but quite full and pretty. The garden also contained squash, corn, potatoes and herbs.

The area around the park was very agricultural. Many smaller farms, growing a wide variety of crops. Many fields of hops were interesting to see, as were the fields of small cone-shaped evergreens being grown for the landscaping market.

In the campground, just across from our space, there were lots of wild blackberry bushes.

I couldn't resist and went berry picking several times during our stay.

I really like them on my morning oatmeal. I ate some and froze 10 serving-sized portions.

After a conversation with our daughter, Craig decided to pick some to make a frozen sorbet.

After blending them and straining them through a sieve, he simmered the berry juice with sugar, water, and lemon juice. We don't have an ice-cream maker as called for by his recpie, so we just froze it (which took three days!).

With all of that activity, we had no had time to walk down and see the Willamette River itself. There was a trail to it right next to our campsite, so we went for a short after dinner walk.

I was surprised there were no mosquitos. By the time we got back to the Alfa, it had become a moonlit stroll.  Quite nice!

We were only there for two nights, and our next destination was 157 miles away. 

Mount Rainer National Park.  Check back.


  1. We love Champoeg State Park and camp there when we can but that park always stays busy. I enjoyed my visit to the Colony at Aurora. I have read all of Jane Kirkpatrick's books.

  2. No Skeeters!!..What a treat, nutz everywhere else this year...
    I'll have to check-out Champoeg S.P....I've never visited that park..


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