▶️ Destination Oregon: Champoeg State Park

On this week’s Destination Oregon, Dave Jones travels to the Champoeg State Park southeast of Portland. 

Each year, more than 500,000 day visitors and 80,000 campers make a trip to the park.

From wildlife viewing to hiking trails along the Willamette River to a world-class disc golf course, outdoor activities are a popular reason to visit the Champoeg State Park.

▶️ Destination Oregon: Sunriver

It is no secret that central Oregon is a “must-see” for tourists from all over the globe. 4.5 million of them visit each year.

Maybe you’re like so many of us locals who only get out to enjoy what we have in our own backyard when out-of-town guests come to visit.

If that sounds like you, Dave Jones takes you on a tour of a place you may have only scratched the surface on — Sunriver.

RELATED: Destination Oregon: Butteville Store

RELATED: Destination Oregon: Humble Spirit

▶️ Destination Oregon: Butteville Store

It used to be a thriving shipping town in the northern Willamette Valley. Now this tiny community is a mere shadow of its former self, but it hasn’t quite given up the ghost yet. In fact, two days a week it comes alive in a big way. 

In the 1850’s Butteville, Oregon was a thriving port town about halfway between Portland and Salem. Sternwheelers moved agriculture goods up and down the Willamette River.

The self-proclaimed “Hops capital of Oregon” boasted two churches, a school, a Masonic Temple, an Oddfellow’s Hall, a post office and two grain elevators. It was a happening place, until about 1907…when the railroad eliminated the need for the sternwheeler. And Butteville slowly faded. Only the town’s general store remained… And it’s still standing today.

The Historic Butteville Store is the longest continuously operating retail establishment in the state of Oregon. Ben Williams is president of the Friends of Historic Butteville.

“Part of our goal was trying to restore the store as a community center as it had been for so many years in the past,” he says.

RELATED: Destination Oregon: Humble Spirit 

RELATED: Destination Oregon: Tabula Rasa

And what a job they have done. There is no escaping Butteville’s colorful history. The walls tell the story of what the town once was. This is the nerve center of Butteville. The store is owned by the Oregon State Parks Department and is literally tied to nearby Champoeg State park by a 2-mile biking and hiking trail. 

Jordan Scoggins in the chief cook and bottle-washer-manager here AT the Butteville Store. And if his goal is to make sure people enjoy themselves here… he’s batting a thousand. The place was buzzing. We managed to get a seat, but we hear in the summer, the line goes out the door. But we can tell you, it will be worth the wait, and you’ll meet some really great folks. Thursdays are soup and grilled sandwiches…and in the winter, the first and third Saturdays feature special dinners and live music. In the summer, its every Saturday. 

The setting – five miles off Interstate-5, the nearby river, the sense of history, the friendliness. This is a place Mark Twain might have written about and Norman Rockwell might have drawn…if only they’d known about it. There’s not much here, but there is enough. To get here, take the Aurora exits off I-5 about 21-miles south of Portland. 

▶️ Destination Oregon: Humble Spirit

The farm to table food movement is nothing new. Food, fresh off the farm, that you take home to your kitchen table.

There’s a unique farm in the Willamette Valley that takes the farm to table concept to the next level.

We told you in another Destination Oregon about Tabula Rasa, the regenerative farm near Carlton that pays equal attention to its water and soil as it does to its organic produce and livestock. They sell their products at a farm market in nearby Yamhill.

RELATED: Destination Oregon: Tabula Rasa

That brings us to Humble Spirit, a restaurant owned and operated by the same Tabula Rasa folks in nearby McMinnville. And that is a defining characteristic of the relationship between the soil and the table. What happens here dictates what happens here.

Even in the middle of winter, they take what the nutrient-rich Tabula Rasa soil gives him this time of year. Humble Spirit also accepts produce from other regenerative farms in the McMinnville area. The restaurant has a sort-of fine dining vibe.

Humble Spirit is on 3rd Street in downtown McMinnville. It is considered a seasonal bistro where nature calls the shots in terms of what’s fresh on the menu.

Book a weekend at the fabulous bed and breakfast on the Tabula Rasa grounds and make a reservation for at least one meal at nearby Humble Spirit. Perhaps you’ll feel the organic, intentional connection between the farmland and the restaurant table.

▶️ Destination Oregon: Tabula Rasa

Chances are you have heard the term “sustainable” farming. The concept of protecting the environment through agricultural practices. There is a new agricultural concept called “regenerative farming” that not only seeks to improve the land but improve your health, too. 

Tucked in the rolling agricultural landscape in the hills outside of Carlton, Oregon, she sits perched on a hillside with a bird’s eye view of her fertile farmland: Tabula Rasa.

The former home and art studio has been transformed into a bed and breakfast that looks like it popped out of Sunset Magazine, and it did!

RELATED: Destination Oregon: Benton County Historical Museum

RELATED: Destination Oregon: Mini-getaway to La Grande

Tabula Rasa is a Latin phrase meaning “the absence of preconceived ideas or predetermined goals.” In other words, a clean slate.

They call Tabula Rasa a “multi-species regenerative farm.” Which begs the question, what does that actually mean? They raise cattle, poultry, hogs and more on free range land. And rather than trying to make the land “sustainable,” they are working to make the land better.

Two important resources on any farm are water and soil. At the same time, they are trying to slow the runoff of water to maximize its usage, and the owner of Tabula Rasa came up with an ingenious way to do just that.

They give tours to the public to explain regenerative farming and to tell people more about where their food comes from. Produce and meat from Tabula Rasa are available at a Farm Market in the nearby town of Yamhill.

▶️ Destination Oregon: Benton County Historical Museum

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There is a place in the Willamette Valley where historical artifacts come alive in a gallery-like setting.

You’ll be forgiven if you mistake the brand-new Benton County Historical Museum in Corvallis for a modern art gallery.

This is where local history meets modern architecture, and the mix is inspiring. 140,000 artifacts laid out in permanent and rotating exhibits. Artwork, photos, displays and exhibits are spread out here, which makes them easier to study and learn about. 

RELATED: Destination Oregon: Mini-getaway to La Grande

RELATED: Destination Oregon: Historic town of Carlton

And the way information is conveyed to visitors is different here, too. One exhibit might, at first glance, be a bit of a head scratcher. Hats and chairs.

Something else that may seem out of place is Bruce the Moose. Oregon State University students of a certain era might remember Bruce the Moose in the old Horner Museum in the basement of Gill Coliseum.

John Horner was a professor at OSU who gave his personal collection to the college. The historical museum incorporated the Horner Museum artifacts, and Bruce was part of the package.

But he wasn’t the only animal that came with the deal. What would a museum in Corvallis be without a Beaver?

Many of the Horner Museum artifacts have their own prominent place in the Benton County Room. One eye-catching display honors Corvallis wildlife photographer William Finley, who employed a unique approach to his craft.

You don’t necessarily need to be a Benton County resident to get something from your visit to the museum.


▶️ Destination Oregon: Mini-getaway to La Grande

Head out east and you’ll come across a small town filled with gems for the whole family — from shopping, to skiing, to catching a show at the Liberty Theater. 

Dave Jones helps us plan a mini getaway to La Grande

RELATED: Destination Oregon: The Lodge at Hot Lake Springs

RELATED: Destination Oregon: The Liberty Theatre in La Grande

▶️ Destination Oregon: Historic town of Carlton

Wine connoisseurs know it as “Pinot Paradise” or the “Capital of Wine Country” in the Willamette Valley. Others know it simply as the quaint, historic town of Carlton. The little town that has reinvented itself with losing its Normal Rockwell-like charm.

Located 45 minutes southwest of Portland and 15 miles north of McMinnville In Yamhill County, the town of Carlton is tucked into the rolling agricultural landscape.

Ginny Rake holds down the fort at the Carlton Coffee Company on Main Street. She spent her childhood years right here. Back then, Carlton was a rough and tumble logging town. But like most Pacific Northwest timber towns, that economic base faded away.

RELATED: Destination Oregon: Willamette Valley Truffle (the mushroom) Festival

RELATED: Destination Oregon: Peterson’s Chocolates

Winemaker Ken Wright had his eye on Carlton long before bringing his winery here in 1994. He liked what he calls the town’s “good bones.”

Wright bought the dilapidated old Carlton train depot and turned into the town’s first wine tasting room.

As the town transitioned from timber to tannins, Wright started a movement in Carlton to maintain the character of the old buildings in the downtown core as new businesses arose. It is that charm that defines the tidy, three-block Main Street. This could be called the Carlton Hospitality district.

Since Wright set up shop in 1994, dozens of wineries have popped up in and around Carlton. That’s a lot of tasting rooms in a town of 2,000.

The truth is you cannot rush through Carlton. Highway 47 is Main Street and you simply have to apply the brakes as you enter town. So the traffic and the pace of life slows down, which makes it that much easier to check out the various tasting rooms and restaurants.

Not into wine? You may still enjoy a leisurely weekend in Carlton. It still has the feel of a quiet, rural agricultural community, which it still is. Longtime family farms still operate in the rolling landscape, with dozens of wineries as their new neighbors.

▶️ Destination Oregon: Willamette Valley Truffle (the mushroom) Festival

Truffles — the mushrooms, not the chocolates. Some people like them. Many love them. Many others are obsessed with them. 

It turns out the Willamette Valley is the king of the truffle world, at least in North America.

You see, the truffle is a type of ectomycorrhizal fungi, meaning it grows in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of trees. Unlike more common mushroom varieties, truffles grow entirely underground — right in our backyard.

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All this led to the formation of the Oregon Truffle Festival, which is in full bloom right now. The festival, which runs through the end of February, has events and activities that take place everywhere the truffles can be found in the Willamette Valley, from McMinnville to Eugene.

Much of the truffle festival takes place in Corvallis on the Oregon State University campus.

The experienced truffle hunter will use their dog to help find this underground treasure. And the festival offers training classes for your pooch if you’re so inclined.

For a rundown of events, go to oregontrufflefestival.org.