The ODFW Visitors' Guide
Historically the Luckiamute Band of Kalapuya Indians roamed what is now E. E. Wilson. The Luckiamutes intensively managed the landscape, setting fires that encouraged growth of food plants (camas, tarweed, white oak) and plants used for baskets, mats, and various tools. Burning also provided better forage for game animals and better hunting areas.
The Oregon White Oak was an important source of food to the Indians. These magnificent trees are still important to the Oregon landscape as food and refuge for numerous birds, reptiles and mammals. Several stands of white oak can be observed at E. E. Wilson.
When settlers came to Oregon in the early 1800's, they brought with them smallpox and malaria. The Kalapuya population went from 10,000 to 600 by 1830. The remaining tribes were forced onto the Grand Ronde Reservation between 1851 and 1855.
After the settlement of the west, and until 1942 the town of Wells was located at what is now near the center of E. E. Wilson Wildlife Area. The town grew when Southern Pacific brought the new Red Electric railroad through town, and also changed the name to Wellsdale, so as not to be confused with Wells, Neveda.
For months before Pearl Harbor Day in 1941, the U. S. Army had their eye on the Wellsdale site. A few days after the declaration of war on December 8, they announced that a training base would be built there.
Within one month the town was vacated and bulldozers leveled the white prim houses and red barns and barracks sprang up for Camp Adair.
The Army took over Wells in 1942 for the purpose of training four divisions of soldiers for overseas duty in WW II. They called the base “Camp Adair” after Henry Rodney Adair, who was a West Point graduate, Oregon pioneer descendent, and the first Oregonian killed in the 1916 Mexican border disputes.
|Road March at Camp Adair
The camp itself covered an area two miles wide and six miles long with 1800 buildings. The camp was the second largest city in Oregon at the time, and housed roughly 40,000 troops.
The portion of the base that became E. E. Wilson was fondly referred to as “Swamp Adair” due to the constant rain, mud, standing water, and mosquitoes. In efforts to drain the water, the Army built sewer and storm drainage systems, emptied wetlands, and channelized the streams.
Camp Adair operated with round the clock intensity until 1948 when the war effort wound down and the military moved out.
Infantry Division Timelines
Two years later, the Game Commission acquired use of the northern section of the old camp and named it after E. E. Wilson.
Since Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife acquired this portion of Camp Adair in 1948, it has taken great steps toward managing the area for the benefit of wildlife.
“Our mission is to protect and enhance Oregon's fish and wildlife and their habitats for use and enjoyment by present and future generations.”
Most recently, the restoration of seasonal wetlands has been emphasized. Nearly 200 acres of wetlands have been restored and/or enhanced in the past 10 years. More wetlands mean more habitat and forage for fish and wildlife. This in turn creates more opportunities for wildlife and outdoor recreation.
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