Nestled between the Willamette River and the Columbia Slough, this property is a natural flood plain. For centuries the seasonal rise and fall of the water made it a rich plant and animal habitat and an important Indian gathering place. In the early 1900s levees were constructed for drainage which allowed for industrial development in the area.
The present 340-acre site was once part of Vanport City, which at the time, was the second-largest city in Oregon, and remains the largest government housing project in US history. The construction of Vanport began in 1943 to house nearly 40,000 workers who came to work for the Oregon Shipbuilding Company during the height of wartime production. Following World War II, the population was reduced by half due to many wartime workers leaving, although the newly built Vanport College (present-day Portland State University) attracted a large number of veterans and their families.
On May 30, 1948, excessively high water levels caused a 200' break in the dike that held back the Columbia River, resulting in massive flooding that killed 15 residents and virtually destroyed the entire city.
It would be almost another two decades before initial construction began on the first of the two golf courses at Heron Lakes. Designed by renowned golf architects Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and his son Robert Trent Jones II, the first 18 holes (present-day Greenback) and clubhouse were opened in 1971, under the name West Delta Park Golf Course. Along with the name change to Heron Lakes, another 9 holes were added during the 1980s giving the facility three 9-hole courses called the Red, White, and Blue. An additional fourth set of 9 holes were added in 1992 to form the present Great Blue Course. In 2008 the City of Portland selected KemperSports to manage the property and assist in the process of developing a new clubhouse facility.