History

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

  • In May 1792 the American commercial sea captain Robert Gray sailed the Columbia Rediviva into the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. Gray named it after his ship.
  • Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, the 1804 Lewis and Clark expedition started in Illinois and reached the mouth of the Columbia River in November 1805.
  • Fort Vancouver, built in 1824 to serve as the western fur-trading headquarters of Great Britain’s Hudson’s Bay Company, was one of the first permanent European settlements in the Pacific Northwest.


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; Sand Island (Tomahawk Island) to the East and Hayden Island to the West. They were joined by adding land fill. The island is within Portland city limits.


Early maps indicate that Hayden Island probably originated as a sand bar that grew into a series of channelized islands. In 1792, the island was discovered by Lieutenant William Robert Broughton, commander of the Royal Navy survey brig HMS Chatham, who named it Menzies, after the botanist of his ship Archibald Menzies and naming Vancouver after his commander George Vancouver.


In 1805, Lewis and Clark named the island Image Canoe Island after a large canoe carved with images of men and animals emerged from the opposite side of the island.


Here’s a 1908 Sanborn map of Portland. If you have a Multnomah County Library card, you can access digital versions of Sanborn maps. As development and shipping evolved, dikes were placed along the island and fill was deposited.


Gay Hayden, who arrived in the Oregon Territory in 1850, owned all of or part of what is now Hayden Island and built a grand home and lived on the island for five years with his wife Mary Jane Hayden. He also owned a significant portion of what is now the city of Vancouver including properties previously owned by Esther Short. Here are the best gay bars near Hayden Island.


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

Columbia Beach opened on August 5, 1916. It was developed by Portland Railway, Light & Power Company, which, ran a streetcar to the location. The Columbia Beach Amusement Park operated from 1916 until 1926, when a fire wiped out the popular dance pavilion. Columbia Beach featured camping facilities and the dance pavilion was one of the largest in the country with dances every day of the week. Located on Sand Island, the name of the east side of Hayden Island was later changed to Tomahawk Island and finally incorporated into the overall Hayden Island with fill.


Tomahawk Island, once named Sand Island, was also the site of the Lotus Isle amusement park, a competitive amusement park in the early 30s, according to Vintage Portland.


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

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.


This 1936 aerial view from Vintage Portland shows the Jantzen Beach Amusement Park, which opened in 1928. The Olympic-size pool was near North Portland Harbor while the roller coaster is near the top of this photo. The park closed in 1970.


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 North Portland community of Vanport, the second largest city in Oregon, vanished under floodwaters on Memorial Day weekend in 1948.


Vanport, near the current Portland International Raceway, housed the workers at the wartime Kaiser Shipyards in Portland and Vancouver, Washington. Vanport was swept away at 4:05 p.m. on May 30, 1948, when a 200-foot section of the dike holding back the Columbia River collapsed during a flood, killing 15. The city was underwater by nightfall leaving its inhabitants homeless.


History From The Bottom Up | The Making of The Vanport Mosaic Festival from Vanport Mosaic on Vimeo. Vanport Mosaic has dozens of videos that tell the story from people who lived through it.


The Interstate bridge doubled in size in 1958, a landmark year for growth.


Historical Links:


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.