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In 1915, Portland Railway, Light & Power Company printed a promotional brochure to extol the virtues of a new Swimming Beach located 7 miles north of the heart of the city. The Railway company, along with a number of other investors, held title to Columbia Beach on Sand Island. The island was located east of Hayden Island, the home of Jantzen Beach, just north of the Oregon Shore, in the Columbia River.


Columbia Beach could draw the crowds. At its peak, the newspapers reported that it would draw as many as 30,000 Portlanders on a hot day. You can see the Interstate Bridge and Hayden Island in the background.


The slide and diving platforms provided a little excitement.


Patrons of Columbia Beach would drive their cars  down to the beach.

Roller Coaster at Columbia Beach in 1924.

Unusually high waters in the Columbia River and late rains delayed the opening of Columbia Beach Amusement Park until August 5, 1916. Even with the late opening, revenues for the Railway company increased greatly and Portland’s most popular new amusement resort saw many thousands of people.

The Interstate Bridge and the Vancouver shore are visible on the horizon.

Columbia Beach had excellent camping facilities and the dance floor was one of the largest in the country. There were dances seven days a week. There was a miniature railway, a ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, a motordome, a midway, athletic fields, a delicatessen, a grocery store and a roller skating pavilion.

According to an ad in the Sunday Oregonian from June 20, 1920, you could ride an airplane for free at Columbia Beach. You could fix a picnic lunch, take the Vancouver Line streetcar to the Park, watch a ballgame and visit the zoo. Then you could dance away the afternoon and night.

This ad appeared in the Oregonian on July 3, 1925.

This ad appeared in the Portland News on July 21, 1923.

This ad appeared in the Portland News on August 16, 1916.

This ad appeared in the Portland News on August 9, 1916. The ad says that 15,000 people attended Columbia Beach on the previous Sunday.

When Columbia Beach’s season opened on June 6, 1926, over 7000 people flocked to the park to get some relief from early summer heat. The Miniature Railroad with its shiny new engine was very popular as was the Merry-go-round and the Ferris Wheel.

Columbia Beach Amusement Park operated from 1916 until 1926, when a fire destroyed the dance pavilion. When the Park was at its peak, as many as 15,000 people would swim there at one time.

In 1927, the name of the island was changed to Tomahawk Island. Portland school children had a contest to name the island. It was chosen because according to legend, an Indian removed a tomahawk that was on display at the Lewis & Clark Exposition in 1905. It is said that he buried the tomahawk on what had been known as Sand Island.

Today, Tomahawk Island is connected to Hayden Island and Jantzen Beach. Part of the Columbia River was filled in to make it one body of land.

Last updated 10-18-16

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