In his private life, Champoeg Ranger Mike Niss loves to take “nature walks” along coastal streams with a fly fishing rod in his hand. In his professional life, his satisfaction comes from watching how well his staff and volunteers do their work. Niss, who has been a park ranger at Champoeg State Heritage Area for 16 years, enjoys the park, his job and the people he serves.
“Each year, more than 4,000 school kids take part in our interpretive history program,” Niss said. “We tell about the Native Americans who were here, the Hudson Bay Company men (who came as trappers and stayed on as farmers), and the pioneers who came after that. Thanks to the Friends of Historic Champoeg, members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, our staff and all of the other volunteers who help us, we’re able to offer the highest level of world-class interpretive/education service.”
Niss, who was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wis, graduated with a degree in wildlife management from the University of Wisconsin. He moved to Oregon in 1987 to take ranger positions at Beachside, South Beach and Tryon Creek state parks. In 1995, he was assigned to Visitor Services at Champoeg. He currently is responsible for visitor center staffing and operations, interpretive programming, special events and the park host program.
Champoeg State Heritage Area, which officially became an Oregon State Park in 1943, grew out of a 400-square foot piece of ground the state bought in 1901 on which to place a monument that marks the location of Oregon’s birthplace. Today, the park has 615 acres which includes 100 camping sites, individual and group picnic facilities, and an extensive network of hiking and bicycling trails.
Champoeg’s Visitor Center includes history exhibits, a small movie theater that shows a variety of videos about the park and an extensive gift shop featuring books about Oregon. An heirloom kitchen garden and 1862 threshing barn lie just outside the back door. The interpretive program schedule is available on the website
while guided tours are scheduled independently.
To reach Champoeg State Heritage Area, from Interstate 5, take Exit 278 and follow the signs west. From 99W, take 219 South in Newberg and again follow the signs.
To learn more about Champoeg State Heritage Area and Friends of Historic Champoeg, visit www.champoeg.org.