PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An iconic viewpoint overlooking the Columbia Gorge still exists today thanks to a group of women with a love for scenic beauty.
The Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint is located about 22 miles east of Portland, just off the Historic Columbia River Highway not far from the Vista House.
It was originally known as Chanticleer Point and was the site of an inn built in 1912 by a local couple. The inn burned down in 1930 and the Portland Women’s Forum decided to raise money and buy the site.
“Portland Women’s Forum was actually just a regular women’s group,” said Teresa Kasner, treasurer of the PWF. “And then one of the members, Gertrude Jenson, she was out for a drive and saw trees going down and logging mills and she went back to the group and she said we’ve got to do something.”
The group — which was founded more than 70 years ago in 1946 — worked hard to preserve the lookout. They raised $5,000 by selling memberships and holding fashion and doll shows. They purchased 3.7 acres at Chanticleer Point in 1956.
And for anyone who has visited the spot, it’s not hard to see why the women were (and still are) so fond of it.
“The number one view in the whole Gorge is from here,” Kasner said.
Kasner and PWF Vice President Bev Law told KOIN 6 News Jenson’s persistence did more than just preserve a single lookout — she also helped protect the Gorge from private development, logging and steel mills.
“A lot of time, there can be a disconnect between the public and government and it can be a little hazy,” said Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Ranger Miranda Mendoza. “And when we’re able to create these connections with the community and a vested interest, we can do great things.”
In 1953, the Oregon State Legislature formed the Columba River Gorge Commission. As a chairperson on the commission for 16 years, Jenson helped preserve even more land in the Gorge.
The Women’s Forum gifted the viewpoint to the State of Oregon in 1963. Ranger Mendoza said there are currently plans in the works to add restrooms and picnic tables.
“I think it’s amazing to have the Portland Women’s Forum to show what a group of strong women can do,” said Mendoza.
Today, we have those strong women to thank for one of the best overlooks in the entire Gorge.
“When you live here, you have a special love for this area and you want to preserve it for other people,” said Law.
To learn more about the PWF, including how to become a member, click here.