While paging through an Oregon State Parks guide, I noticed a listing for a state park less than an hour from home. What is this?! I thought we’d been to all the state parks near home? But I’d never heard of Thompson’s Mill State Heritage Site, a flour mill that started in 1848. Of course, we had to go!
In short, Thompson’s Mill may be the coolest state park you’ve never heard of.
We packed a picnic lunch and drove 45 minutes from Springfield, Oregon, to Thompson’s Mill, near Shedd, Oregon. We followed Hwy 99E for a charming view of the countryside and a quick stop in Halsey to admire an old wooden grain elevator.
Arriving at Thompson’s Mill, we found the cleanest vault toilets I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. They even had murals painted on the walls inside. Picnic tables were scattered around the parking lot and lined the mill race.
After lunch, we headed to the main building. The website promised tours anytime, and we were ready to learn how flour mills operated over 100 years ago. All 6 of our kids were with us, ages 0 to 13 years.
Ken and Karen, the park’s docents, met us at the entrance. Inside, we discovered that the flour mill is very child-friendly, with clear signs indicating what can be touched. And LOTS of things can be touched! It’s almost an interactive museum, and our kids were enthralled. Ken is a wonderful storyteller and brought the mill’s history alive for us.
Inside the Flour Mill
The museum contains all aspects of a historic flour mill, including sewing machines for making flour sacks, and a brief history of printed flour sacks.
After hearing some anecdotes about bathrooms and workers, the tour headed outside and down the stairs. Till this point, everything is wheelchair- and stroller-accessible. There is a ramp going outside, but there is no wheelchair access to the basement.
Upstairs again, Ken described the workings of how they moved finished flour up and down through the mill. I wandered into the tiny gift shop and a display of home appliances, like an old refrigerator and a wood stove.
The tour was over, and we were free to revisit any of the exhibits inside, except for the basement. My daughter (the amazing photographer) and I went back through to take more photos. Below is a gallery of her photos, which capture the history and essence of the flour mill. Enjoy!