Today on the Land Use Trail: French Prairie

Throughout the summer, we'll be featuring stops on our new Land Use Trail. Today, August 12: French Prairie. This area, among Oregon’s first to be settled by Europeans, remains one of its most significant farming regions.

About:  French Prairie is vital to Oregon’s agricultural heritage. This vast area between the Willamette River and the Pudding River, mostly in Marion County, was settled by French Canadians in the 1820’s, though Kalapuya Indians lived in the area for generations prior. Threatened by strip development along Interstate 5 and urban growth from the Portland metro region, French Prairie is highly productive land that still acts as an economic engine for the state and the region. 1000 Friends works with our affiliate Friends of French Prairie to protect this historic yet still active region of Oregon.

Key Fact: The vote to create Oregon’s provisional government occurred in the town of Champoeg in May 1843. Led by settler Joseph Meek, the vote was taken among roughly 100 landowners, and was very close. However, the United States did not recognize the provisional government until 1846, when it finally signed a treaty with Great Britain designating the 49th parallel as the country’s northern border.

Another Cool Fact:  The term “French Prairie” was first used in print by visitor Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant, in the 1850’s. Saint-Amant, who was then French consul to California, is better known to history as one of France’s great chess masters.

Visit: 

A great place to see French Prairie's history, and that of the state, is Champoeg State Park. A great museum and trails for hiking and biking welcome the visitor. 

The best way to see French Prairie is simply on a scenic driving or biking tour. Here is one idea from a recent book of Oregon byways.

Learn More:

Going to the French Prairie this summer? Share your photos with us! We'll pass them on. Several ways to share!

See the whole Land Use Trail, featuring exceptional Oregon natural places, communities, and working lands from every corner of our state.

Help us protect vital Oregon farm lands at friends.org/support.

Text by Nathen Lamb, Communications Intern.