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Spencer Butte (Eugene)

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View east from summit ridge, Spencer Butte (bobcat)


Spencer Butte is the highest point in Eugene's south hills. The summit is a rocky outcrop with expansive views, and on weekends it can be very crowded towards the middle of the day. The vistas extend up the Willamette Valley, west to the Coast Range, and to the central Cascades peaks of the Three Sisters. Immediately to the south of the summit, a rocky meadow supports a few examples of white oak, incense cedar, Douglas-fir, and Willamette Valley ponderosa pine. A few rattlesnakes make this area their home (The Butte’s native name is Champ-a-te, Kalapuyan for ‘rattlesnake’.).

McArthur and McArthur's Oregon Geographic Names details three possible sources for the naming of the butte. In 1845, a Dr. Elijah White, scouting out a possible emigrant wagon route, named a prominence in the Eugene area Spencer Butte, and cited its views north to Mount Hood; however, Mount Hood cannot be seen from Spencer Butte, so White's hill was probably a different summit. Another source says the butte was named after a Hudson's Bay Company employee who was killed there by Indians. A third, and perhaps most plausible, story from sometime in the 1840s tells of a man named Spencer who was chased up a tree by feral cattle. He apparently spent two nights in the sheltering boughs before he was rescued.

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