From the earliest days of Portland, Hayden Island has been a sparkling jewel in the Columbia River where the locals knew they could come for a good time swimming, sunning, picnicking and enjoying each other’s company. Later, locals got a big boost in the fun as the Island become a preferred location for a series of early century amusement parks.
Jantzen Beach Amusement Park was named for the Carl Jantzen, one of the founding investors in Jantzen swimsuits. Doors opened to the public on May 26, 1928, on a 40-acre site on the west end of the Island, where the shopping district bearing the same name sits. On its second day of operation, 25,000 visitors showed up. By 1970, when the park closed, over 30 million visitors had passed through the turnstiles. Big attractions were the Big Dipper roller coaster, Golden Canopy Ballroom, four swimming pools, a natatorium, 25 acres of picnic grounds, 15 acres of parking and the C.W. Parker Merry-Go-Round, built in 1904 for the St. Louis World’s Fair. You can still ride the merry-go-round today at Jantzen Beach Center.
Portland’s largest amusement park was Lotus Isle, which opened in 1930 and spread over 128 acres at the east end of Hayden Island, known as Tomahawk Island. Promoters referred to it as the “Million-Dollar Pleasure Paradise.” Lotus Isle featured 40 amusement park rides and a 100-foot neon Eiffel Tower sign at the entrance, visible all the way to the West Hills.
Columbia Beach Amusement Park operated from 1916 until 1926, when a fire wiped out the popular dance pavilion. In its heyday, the sandy Columbia River beaches would be enjoyed by as many as 15,000 swimmers with a peak attendance of 30,000 a day. Columbia Beach featured excellent camping facilities and the dance pavilion was one of the largest in the country with dances every day of the week. Other attractions included a miniature railway, Ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, motordome, midway, sports fields, roller skating pavilion and shops.