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Off and on we will feature a northwest historical coaster and include some photos with some information about that particular ride and its park. Some coasters may date back to the early 1900's to the current day.

The coaster pictured below is the Big Dipper that operated at Jantzen Beach Amusement Park from 1928 to Labor Day 1970. The ride was praised by many patrons as being the "best coaster on the West Coast".

Jantzen Beach Big Dipper

Photo courtesy: Lisa Zigweid archives

Big Dipper

Jantzen Beach Amusement Park was also heralded as "Portland's Million dollar Playground" when it first opened in 1928.

The Dipper was designed by the late, Carl Phare, who was a well known roller coaster designer in the Pacific Northwest. Phare also designed two other Northwest coasters, the Giant Dipper at Seattle's Playland, and the currently operating, Playland Wooden Roller Coaster, at Playland in Vancouver, BC.

Jantzen Beach was located on Hayden Island north of Portland. The Jantzen Knitting Mills invested in the Hayden Island Amusement Company to build the Jantzen Beach Amusement Park as part of a large advertising campaign to promote Jantzen swimming suits. The park opened on May 26, 1928 and was hailed by the park as the largest amusement park in the country spanning 123 acres of land. On opening day, the park was appropriately termed as "The Coney Island of The West".

The park had many attractions to offer besides the Dipper. The park also had a Kiddie Dipper steel coaster, four swimming pools, a Natatorium, Golden Canopy Ballroom, picnic grounds, Fun House, Venetian Canal ride, Ferris Wheel, Elbow Room Restaurant, Jantzen Beach Railway, Two robot circus criers, "Laffing Sal" and "Joe Barker", and a 1921 C.W. Parker Carousel.

In the late 1950's, Jantzen Beach started losing its patrons. A handful of factors contributed to the park's financial loss: the 1948 Vanderport flood that caused many local patrons to move away, competition with the new Expo Center, a fire, and the highway expansion on the Interstate Bridge. In 1958, the addition of the west highway took out a large portion of the park which ultimately led to even more financial woes. And, it was on Labor Day in 1970 that the park finally closed its doors.

What remains left of the park is the 1921 C.W. Parker Carousel that had been restored in 1995 and operated at the Jantzen Beach Super Mall until 2012. Unfortunately, since the mall began its major renovation, this historical icon was dismantled in April 2012, and its future of acquiring a new home in Portland is undecided as of this writing (April 25, 2013).

Written by Lisa Zigweid

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