Willamette Mission State Park

Near Salem, Oregon, United States

A gorgeous retreat for birdwatchers, horseback riders, disc golfers and kayakers, Willamette Mission State Park has something for everyone. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the park marks the site of the original Willamette Mission, established in 1834 and washed away by flood in 1861. 

The park’s 1,300 acres include woodland, wetland, rolling meadows and working farmland. Just eight miles north of Salem and only minutes from I-5, it is a convenient retreat for family picnics and company events. Visitors also have a chance to explore almost 15 miles of trails on foot or horseback.

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.

Park Trails

  • 5 miles of bike paths
  • 6 miles of horse trails
  • 2 ½ mile self-guided education trail
  • 1 mile jogging loop
  • Note: Trails flood during heavy rainstorms in winter and spring. Check this page for closures. 

Water Play

Anglers will enjoy fishing for bluegill, crappie, carp and largemouth bass in Mission and Goose lakes. Fishing at Goose Lake requires some trailblazing, and the undeveloped trail can flood in the winter and spring (watercraft walk-in only).

At Mission Lake, cast your line from the ADA-accessible fishing dock (electric motors and paddle craft only).

Access the Willamette River from the boat launch next to the Wheatland Ferry, at the north end of the park. Two trails from the Filbert Grove Day-use Area lead to a beach with a gravel bar popular for launching kayaks. A permit is required for camping along the Willamette River Water Trail; call or visit the park office to obtain one.

Camping and Picnicking

The park's group facilities are open June 1 – Sep. 30 and can be reserved up to 30 days in advance on our partner site, oregonstateparks.reserveamerica.com

  • Picnic shelters: The park's three picnic shelters can accommodate groups up to 150 and include covered kitchen area with picnic tables, electricity and water. Each is alongside a spacious lawn with horseshoe pits and a volleyball net, with nearby flush restrooms. Park Manager approval is required for over 150 people and for event or equipment staging. Shelters are first-come, first-served when not reserved.
  • Beaver Island Group Camp: Space for up to 100 tent campers, with a fire ring, picnic tables, water and outhouse. Flush restroom building is nearby. No showers, power or shelter.
  • Horse Camp: Four spacious sites, each with four stalls, a fire ring and two picnic tables. 
  • NOTE: Park does not have showers.

Disc Golf

The Wheatland Disc Golf Course features 18 holes that weave through a hazelnut grove. A fairway map and scorecards are available at the start of the course.

For more information and a park map, download our Recreation Guide

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-car-side First-come, first-served camping mdi-currency-usd Day-use parking permit required
(purchase 1-day permit on site)
Buy annual parking permit
mdi-cellphone 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.