Oaks Amusement Park

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Oaks Amusement Park
Oaks Amusement Park entrance Portland Oregon.jpg
Entrance to Oaks Park.
Location 7805 SE Oaks Park Way
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Coordinates 45°28′23″N 122°39′38″W / 45.4730°N 122.66061°W / 45.4730; -122.66061Coordinates: 45°28′23″N 122°39′38″W / 45.4730°N 122.66061°W / 45.4730; -122.66061
Owner Oaks Park Association
Opened May 30, 1905[1][2]
Operating season Spring weekends and daily during summer (rides)
Tuesdays-Sundays (rink)
Website http://www.oakspark.com/

Oaks Park is a small amusement park located 3.5 miles (5.6 km) south of downtown Portland, Oregon, U.S., near the Sellwood Bridge. Known as the "Coney Island of the Northwest" after its opening in May 1905, it is one of the oldest operating amusement parks in the country.[2]

The 44-acre (18 ha) park includes midway games, about two dozen rides that operate seasonally, a skating rink that is open all-year, and picnic grounds.[3] It is also home to the Herschell–Spillman Noah's Ark Carousel, a historic wooden carousel constructed in 1912.


The park, conceived as an attraction timed to accompany the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, was built by the Oregon Water Power and Railway Company and opened on May 30, 1905,[4] during a period when trolley parks were often constructed along streetcar lines. It attracted 300,000 visitors during its first season, and continued to attract about that many patrons throughout its first decade of existence.[4][5]

In the early 1920s, the park was sold to John Cordray, one of its managers. After Cordray died in 1925, Edward Bollinger, Oaks Park's superintendent, bought all but the land from Cordray's widow; Bollinger acquired the land in 1943.[4] Some of the park's earliest rides included Chute the Chutes, a chute ride that whisked the riders down a steep incline plunging into a small man-made lake; the Barrel of Fun, a funhouse which included screaming skeletons, mazes of mirrors, and dark dead-end hallways; and the Mystic River Ride, a boat ride that traveled through darkened tunnels.[2] The park also featured a floating bathhouse anchored along the river at the south end of the park, as well as a dance pavilion, which attracted famous acts from around the world, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the John Philip Sousa Marching Band, and Patrick Conway and his World Famous Band.[2]

In 1948, the Vanport flood submerged Oaks Park for thirty days, killing a third of the bluff's oak trees, warping most of the rides, and resulting in damage to the rink that took five months to repair; the next year, Bollinger's son Robert took over after his father's death.[4] The damage prompted the owners to rebuild the rink floor on airtight iron barrels, which would float in the event of another flood; the floats worked as planned during the area's Christmas flood of 1964 and the Willamette Valley Flood of 1996.[4][6]

For many years, three steam locomotives were kept at the park, on static display. These included Southern Pacific 4449, from 1958 to 1974; Spokane, Portland and Seattle 700, from 1958 to 1986; and Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co. 197, from 1958 to 1996. Although no longer at Oaks Park, the three locomotives all remain in Portland, and since 2012 they are residing at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center.[7] Two years after the Jantzen Beach Amusement Park closed in 1970, the Oregon Journal reported Oaks Park "may be on the verge of a renaissance"; three years later Sellwood's local newspaper, The Bee reported "30,000 people a month still come during the summer."[4] In 1985, the park was donated to Oaks Park Association, a not-for-profit corporation created by Robert Bollinger.[8]

The park celebrated 100 years of continuous operation in 2005, making it among the oldest in the US.[1]


Aerial view of Oaks Amusement Park, showing the attractions

Current rides[edit]

The Rock-O-Plane at Oaks Park.

Park rides and midway games are open weekends during spring and daily during summer.[9] Rides include the following:[10][11][12]

South End[edit]

East End[edit]

Hand-carved wooden detail on the Herschell-Spillman Noah's Ark Carousel
  • Rock 'N' Roll (a rock 'n' roll themed Matterhorn, with cars shaped like '57 Chevys, similar to the Alpine Bobs)
  • Ferris Wheel (manufactured by Eli Bridge Co.) New electric drive system fitted 2014
  • Go-Karts

North End (Acorn Acres)[edit]

  • Cosmic Crash Bumper Cars
  • Up Up and Away (manufactured by Zamperla)
  • Chipper's Choppers (kiddie motorcycles, new for 2014)
  • Toon Cars (kiddie cars)
  • Zoom (kiddie coaster manufactured by E&F Miler Industries)
  • Sky Fighters
  • Frog Hopper
  • Rockin' Tug (manufactured by Zamperla)
  • Adventure Miniature Golf (new for 2011)
  • Tree Top Drop (new for 2016)

Roller skating rink[edit]

The park includes a 100 by 200 feet (30 m × 61 m) wooden roller skating rink, open year-round.[13] The rink has had a pipe organ for most of its history; since 1955 it has been a Wurlitzer model with four manuals, moved to the rink from its previous home at Portland's Broadway Theatre,[14] where it had been installed in 1926.[15] All pipework for the organ is mounted on a platform hanging over the skate floor.[14][16]

Former rides[edit]

  • The Zip, one of Harry Traver's famous Giant Cyclone Safety Coasters, operated at Oaks Park from 1927 to 1934.
  • Looping Thunder (steel looping roller coaster manufactured by Pinfari). It is the only looping roller coaster in Oregon. Looping Thunder closed in late September of 2017 to make way for a new Gerstlauer_Euro-Fighter Roller coaster.

In culture[edit]

In 1989, the park and the interior of the roller rink were seen in a long sequence in Breaking In, a film written by John Sayles, directed by Bill Forsyth, and starring Burt Reynolds. It also appears in the 1999 PBS special Great Old Amusement Parks.

Oaks Park's skating rink was featured in the 2007 true story Music Within, 2008 thriller movie Untraceable, and again on TNT's Leverage on the season four episode four "The Van Gogh Job". The park itself was also featured in Free Willy (1993).

More recently, the park has appeared on Portlandia and Grimm.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Oaks Park". PDX History. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d Beck, Dana (2012-12-12). "Oaks Amusement Park, and its beginnings". Portland Tribune. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  3. ^ "The History of Oaks Amusement Park". Oakspark.com. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f [1] Archived June 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ This streetcar / trolley park had to be sold in 1925 due to change in laws preventing utility companies from owning entities not connected with their major product. In this case, the streetcar / trolley park was built to increase ridership of the Oregon City, Bellrose and Estacada trolley lines. John Cordray purchased "The Oaks Resort" operating company (not the land) early in 1925 shortly before he died. Edward Bollinger purchased it from Cordray's widow. Via a gentlemen's agreement, Edward and Robert Bollinger purchased the land in 1943; however, only Edward's name was on the transaction. Edward amended his Will to honor their "gentleman's agreement" with his son. This Will was not honored as Edward re-married without updating it. Robert purchased the portion that was awarded to Edward's widow. The last payment was made in 1951.[citation needed]
  6. ^ Pictures and videos are available for the 1948, 1964 on rbollinger.com. Pictures of the 1958 flood and 1962 Columbus Day Storm can be found on rbollinger.com as well.
  7. ^ The fourth locomotive stored with these three was the No. 418 Finnish War Hero steam locomotive, from cira 1957 to 1980.
  8. ^ Bollinger. "Robert Bollinger benefactor of The Oaks, etc". rbollinger.com. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  9. ^ "New Attractions at Oaks Park". Oakspark.com. 2011-09-21. 
  10. ^ "Thrill Rides at Oaks Amusement Park". Oakspark.com. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  11. ^ "Intermediate Rides at Oaks Park". Oakspark.com. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  12. ^ "Kid's Rides Morning". Oakspark.com. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  13. ^ "Oaks Amusement Park Skating Rink". Oakspark.com. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  14. ^ a b "Oaks Park Roller Rink, Portland Oregon". PSTOS. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  15. ^ "WurliTzer Opus 1380". Theatreorgans.com. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  16. ^ The D'Urbanos Royal Italians band played for roller skating sessions when the park opened on May 30, 1905. Over time, a WurliTzer Band Organ replaced the live band. Circa 1922, a Wood 4-manual Pipe Organ was installed (see rbollinger.com use the site's search feature to find pipe organ information). In May 1955, the current WurliTzer had been purchased, platform over skating surface reinforced to support the addition weight. The pipes are unshuttered to provide volume needed to be heard over the skates rolling on the wooden floor.

External links[edit]