Oregon’s First State Park Will Be Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

The honor comes as Oregon State Parks celebrates its centennial all year long.

Oregon’s very first state park—a modest greenspace on the banks of the Luckiamute River near Monmouth—has been accepted into the National Register of Historic Places. And the honor couldn’t be more perfectly timed: This year, Oregon State Parks celebrates its centennial.

Sarah Helmick State Recreation Site is named after the woman who donated 5.46 acres of her family homestead to the Oregon State Highway Commission in 1922 so that weary travelers would have a place to rest. Over the next 60 years, other landowners donated adjacent parcels, helping the site grow to 81.72 acres, about 15 of which are open to visitors.

When the recreation area opened in 1924, it marked the official launch of the Oregon State Parks system that today comprises 254 parks and more than 100,000 acres.

Over the years, the agency has made improvements to the site, including the addition of picnic tables and restrooms, and the setting has retained a historical feel. Oregon State Parks has even preserved an unpaved footpath leading to the Luckiamute—one of the original features.

“In 2022. we celebrate the places Oregonians hold dear: the viewpoints, the waterfalls, the trails, and the historic landmarks,” Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, stated in a press release. “The Helmick donation became our first park, so it is fitting that we officially recognize its status by adding it to the National Register.”