Council Crest amusement park was once a hotspot in Portland, Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Did you know Council Crest Park in Portland was once an amusement park?

What is considered the highest point in the Pink City at 1,073 feet, was once home to the Council Crest amusement park. It ran from Memorial Day in 1907 to Labor Day in 1929 – the year the Great Depression began.

Referred to as the “Dreamland of the Northwest”, the property was originally part of the land claim of Oregon pioneer John Talbot Lewis.

It is believed that the Portland Railway Light & Power Company developed the park in hopes of attracting more passengers for the new Portland Heights light rail line which opened the same year.

According to OregonHikers.org, the park had several attractions including a steam-powered model railroad, a Ferris wheel, a boat ride called “Trip Up the Columbia” and an observatory.

An article in the June 1910 Oregon Daily Journal detailed the park’s main selling points, including “Trip Up the Columbia”. This attraction cost $20,000 to build and took guests on a truly scenic boat ride nearly 2,000 feet.

“There is also a large scene showing a fully rigged sailboat lying on the bottom of the sea; a scuba diver defends himself against an attack by a huge ‘octopus’ or devil fish,” the Oregon Daily Journal reported. “After passing this scene, the boat enters the gorge of the Columbia River, where an Indian from a canoe is seen shooting a deer.”

By then the miniature railway had also been rebuilt and over 70,000 people had already ridden the railway in 1910 alone. This and the observatory in the park were arguably the most popular attractions.

Council Crest Amusement Park on Saturday, June 10, 1911 (Courtesy Portland City Auditor’s Office)

The observatory had views of Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Rainier. This made it a perfect location for the total solar eclipse which occurred on June 8, 1918.

According to the Morning Oregonian, “Council Crest amusement park management has invited visitors, without admission, to view the eclipse from this eminence, the highest local point above the city.”

Since then, the observatory has been rebuilt into a water tower.

Although operations at the amusement park ended in 1929, it was not completely demolished until 1941. Until 1950, carts still showed off the site’s high elevation and 180-degree view of Portland to tourists.

Today, Council Crest Park is one of the city’s most dog-friendly hiking and picnicking destinations. It is also the home of Frederick Littman’s bronze sculpture which depicts a mother and child playing in a park.

Harold B. McConnell