mdi-tent Reserve

Willamette Mission State Park

Near Salem, Oregon, United States

mdi-tent Reserve

Nestled in the heart of the Willamette Valley, Willamette Mission State Park has more than 1,300 acres of woodlands interspersed with wetlands, lakes rolling meadows and farmland. Whether you lean toward bird watching along the Willamette River, picnicking in shady orchards, wetting a line or enjoying the scenery by foot, bicycle or horseback, this park has it all.

The park is the site of the Willamette Mission Station established 1834 by Rev. Jason Lee. The mission marked the first organized Euro-American enterprise and community in the Willamette Valley.  The Mission Trail leads to a viewing area across lake.

The nation’s largest black cottonwood sits on the shores of Mission Lake. This 270-year old tree is more than 28 feet in circumference, and stands more than 155 feet tall.

The Trails

  • 5 miles of bike paths
  • 6 miles of horse trails
  • 2 ½ mile self-guided education trail
  • 1 mile Mission Trail and 1 mile Jogging Loop
  • Note: Trails flood during heavy rainstorms in winter and spring. Check Park Web page for Closures. 

The Lakes

  • Mission Lake has a boat ramp and ADA fishing docks (electric motors and paddle craft only)
  • Goose Lake is a primitive access, but those willing to trek can find good fishing (watercraft walk-in only).

The River

  • The Willamette River can be accessed by boat and bank, near Wheatland Ferry at Willamette Mission River Boat Ramp and North Access.  Call or visit Park Office for watertrail overnight permit required if shuttling.

Camping and Picnicking

  • Three reservable picnicking sites for large groups up to 150, include picnic shelters, tables, electricity, water, and restrooms. Park Manager approval required for over 150 people, event or equipment staging.
  • Beaver Island Group Camp is a Tent Camp for up to 100 tent campers, includes fire ring, tables, water and outhouse, with distant restroom building; No showers, power or shelter.
  • Horse Camp is a Seasonal camp, open June 1 - September 30 by reservation-only in a Day Use park with changing season hours, gate closing.  It has four spacious sites, each with four stalls, fire ring, two tables. 
  • NOTE: Park does not have showers.

Disc Golf

  • The Wheatland Disc Golf Course features 18 holes that weave through a hazelnut grove. 
  • Fairway Map and Scorecards are available at Disc Golf Trailhead.

For more information and a park map, download the brochure

Effective Sep 18, 2020
Campfires are banned in all state parks, including campgrounds, day-use areas, and beaches. The ban includes wood, charcoal briquettes, candles, tiki torches and other devices that emit flames or embers. Propane stoves and other cooking devices that have an immediate shutoff valve are allowed for cooking only. Locally, park managers have discretion to allow fires in designated campfire rings only if conditions have improved enough to do so. 
mdi-white-balance-sunny Open for day use Year Round
COVID-19 may affect dates
mdi-tent Open for camping May 15 – Sep 30
COVID-19 may affect dates
mdi-currency-usd Day-use parking permit required
(purchase 1-day permit on site)
Buy annual parking permit
mdi-cellphone Call for reservations: 800-452-5687
Call for info: 800-551-6949
Call park: 503-393-1172
Current Conditions Directions Feedback

Amenities & Features

History

The rise and fall of Willamette Mission

The park commemorates the site of Willamette Mission, which served as the first Methodist mission on the west coast and as a boarding school for Native American youth from 1834 until 1841. Established by Québec-born Rev. Jason Lee, the mission marked one of the first Euro-American communities in the Willamette Valley.

Lee and his team of four men arrived Oct. 6, 1834. Racing the coming winter, they built a log Mission House to serve as a school, chapel, kitchen and living quarters. It became the center of missionary life. From 1835-1841, the mission grew to include a chapel, hospital, log cabin homes, blacksmith shop, granary and 30-acre farm. The complex became known across the U.S. as “Wilamet” Station at Mission Bottom and served for a time as the headquarters for satellite missions across the Pacific Northwest. 

The Methodist Missionary Society in New York sent several reinforcements to expand the community. These newcomers included a doctor, blacksmith, and teachers -- including the woman who would become Lee’s wife, Anna Maria Pittman.

But from the outset, Lee faced logistical and cultural challenges in establishing his boarding school and converting the Native people. While some Native Americans did convert to Christianity, others struggled to fit this new religion into their existing worldviews. Additionally, foreign illnesses were decimating native populations.

Frequent floods at Mission Bottom pushed Lee to move the headquarters in 1841 to Chemeketa Plain. He reopened the boarding school and named it the Indian Manual Training School, which would become Willamette University.

Families traveling the Applegate and Oregon Trail continued to use the abandoned mission buildings until a catastrophic flood in 1861 washed them away. The state acquired the property through donation in 1979 and opened it to the public as a state park in honor of Lee’s contribution to Oregon’s history.

Though the mission itself was transient, Lee’s legacy endured — both as a catalyst that helped to put Salem on the map as the state’s political capital, and as a reminder of the upheaval in the lives of the Native Americans who first called this area home.

Brochures and Maps

mdi-file-pdf-box Willamette Mission Recreation Guide

Photos & Video

Some parks are open for day-use and camping, with reduced services. Check the Park Status Map and FAQ for details. Campfire restrictions may be in place.