History

Regional History.

The Willamette River meets the Columbia near this spot in the river. After running for 1,210 miles from Canada the Columbia River finally meets the Ocean in Astoria, about 125 miles down river. For thousands of years, this region was home to native people who flourished on the bounty of forest and river. The bounty of Salmon seemed endless.

Early maps indicate that Hayden Island probably originated as a sand bar that grew into a series of channelized islands. As development and shipping evolved, dikes were placed along the island and fill was deposited.

In October of 1805, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery paddled down the Columbia River on the famous expedition into the West.

Astoria celebrated its bicentennial on April 5, 2011. John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Trading party, established the city of Astoria as the first permanent U.S. settlement west of the Rocky Mountains in April, 1811.

In 1825, Dr. John McLoughlin moved their northwest headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company from Astoria, Oregon to a more favorable setting upriver. He named the site Fort Vancouver.

Fort Vancouver became the center of fur trading in the Pacific Northwest. In 1846, American control was extended north to the 49th parallel. The northwest became part of the United States and Captain Vancouver moved north to Canada, where a new city was born named Vancouver. The Canadian city was incorporated 29 years later.

Vancouver Washington boasts many special distinctions:


  • Headquarters of Hudson’s Bay Company (established 1825)
  • Oldest permanent non-native settlement in Pacific Northwest (1825)
  • Oldest living apple tree in Pacific Northwest (planted 1826)
  • First sawmill in Pacific Northwest (1827)
  • Oldest public square in Pacific Northwest (Esther Short Park, 1855)
  • One of the oldest continuously operated airports in the country (Pearson Field, 1905-present)
  • World’s largest spruce lumber mill for airplane construction during World War I
  • Major shipbuilding center during World War II

Historical Links:


Hayden Island was named after Oregon pioneer and early Vancouver settler Gay Hayden who owned the island. After settling there in 1851 he built a grand home and lived on the island for five years with his wife and kids. The island actually was two islands; Tomahawk Island to the East and Hayden Island to the West, which were joined by adding land fill. The island is within Portland city limits.

The Jantzen Beach Amusement Park opened on May 26, 1928, promoted as the largest amusement park in the nation. The park sprawled over 123 acres at Hayden Island, notes PdxHistory.

The Golden-Canopied Ballroom attracted big name bands, with world-class dance competitions.

When it opened on June 28, 1930, Lotus Isle was the largest amusement park in Portland with over 40 rides on 128 acres, says PdxHistory. It was located just east of Jantzen Beach, on the other side of the bridge, at the site of the old Columbia Beach.

The Grand Ballroom, which is thought to be the birthplace of the dance marathon circuit, was one of the first locations for the great walkathons where they would pack in 6,000 people.

The park was only open for three seasons. The ballroom caught fire the second season and burned to the ground. Dances were held the final season on the Blue Swan, a barge which was docked on the Columbia River. They hoped Jantzen Beach backers would buy them out. In mid-1929, Jantzen Beach called their bluff, saying there was plenty of room for all and the competition was welcome.

Columbia Beach opened on August 5, 1916. It was developed by Portland Railway, Light & Power Company, which, along with a number of other investors, held title to Columbia Beach on Sand Island. In 1927, the name of the island was changed to Tomahawk Island.

The east end of Hayden Island is shown in this 1973 aerial photo on Vintage Portland. The Red Lion on the East side of the Bridge had not yet been built.

In September, 2012, the biggest local fire in more than a decade caused an estimated $5 million in damage, to the Thunderbird Motel, west of the Interstate bridge. The 352-room hotel had been vacant since 2005. The building had not been condemned and was for sale although the newly proposed bridge was expected to pass right through the area.

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