During the 19th century, ownership claims to much of the land west of the Mississippi River were constantly disputed. The U.S. and British Treaty of 1818 formally defined a north-south boundary along the 49th parallel all the way from Minnesota to the "Stony Mountains" (Rocky Mountains). The great expanse of land west of the Rockies would not have a defined boundary, however; it would be shared for common interests and use. Americans at the time referred to the land as the Oregon Country, and the British called it the Columbia District of the Hudson's Bay Company.
Congregating on the banks of the Willamette River under giant black cottonwood trees in the small village of Champoeg, a group of Willamette Valley settlers made a vote in 1843 to formally establish a provisional government to oversee the grand expanse of western land. Voting 52 to 50 the motion was passed.
In 1845 a prominent settler named William Gilpin traveled east to Washington to deliver the petition to the U.S. congress. By then, however, much of the British and U.S. debate over the fate of the Pacific Northwest had been well underway. Tensions between the parties sharing the Oregon Country were continuous. Under the Polk administration, the U.S. pushed for a more northerly boundary near the 54th parallel (think "54°40’ or fight"), but the Spanish-American War broke out in the same year the Gilpin arrived in D.C., and in an effort to avoid simultaneous wars the U.S. agreed to the Oregon Treaty in 1846. In the treaty the U.S. settled for extending the country's boundary along the 49th parallel all the way to the coast. The treaty created a new official name for the U.S. land, the Oregon Territory, and Oregon City was chosen as its capital, not Champoeg.
In 1861 a great flood ripped through the valley. The Willamette River rose 55 feet above normal levels, and the town of Champoeg was completely destroyed and never rebuilt.
Today, the Champoeg State Heritage Area is designated as a 623-acre state park that offers numerous attractions for visitors including:
Note: The Pioneer Memorial Pavilion, picnic areas, and the picnic shelter at the Oak Grove Day Use Area can all be reserved for group functions by calling 1.800.452.5687. The Pavilion is $100 for the first 50 occupants, $1 for each additional person, with a 200 person maximum occupancy. The picnic areas and shelter are $58 for the first 50 occupants, $1 for each additional person, with a 200 person maximum occupancy.