Bridge of the Gods

Video of the Construction of the Bridge of the Gods

 

Native American Lore on the Bridge of the Gods

The Bridge of the Gods was the very first bridge constructed across the Columbia River! It honors its history with the name “Bridge of the Gods,” reminding those who travel it by car, or on foot as they hike the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, of the epic mythical and natural forces that shaped the Central Cascades.

Native American lore contains numerous legends to explain the eruptions of Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes in the Cascade Volcanic Arc . The most famous of these is the Bridge of the Gods legend told by the Klickitats. In their tale, the chief of all the gods, Tyhee Saghalie and his two sons, Pahto (also called Klickitat) and Wy’east, traveled down the Columbia River from the Far North in search of a suitable area to settle.

They came upon an area that is now called The Dalles and thought they had never seen a land so beautiful. The sons quarreled over the land and to solve the dispute their father shot two arrows from his mighty bow; one to the north and the other to the south. Pahto followed the arrow to the north and settled there while Wy’east did the same for the arrow to the south. Saghalie then built Tanmahawis, the Bridge of the Gods, so his family could meet periodically.

When the two sons of Saghalie both fell in love with a beautiful maiden named Loowit, she could not choose between them. The two young chiefs fought over her, burying villages and forests in the process. The area was devastated and the earth shook so violently that the huge bridge fell into the river, creating the Cascades Rapids of the Columbia River Gorge.

For punishment, Saghalie struck down each of the lovers and transformed them into great mountains where they fell. Wy’east, with his head lifted in pride, became the volcano known today as Mount Hood and Pahto, with his head bent toward his fallen love, was turned into Mount Adams. The fair Loowit became Mount St. Helens, known to the Klickitats as Louwala-Clough which means “smoking or fire mountain” in their language (the Sahaptin called the mountain Loowit).

Select here to read more history.

Select here to read more lore.

Bridge of the Gods spanning the Columbia River, Skamania County, Washington, and Cascades Locks, Oregon, ca. 1930

Postcard courtesy Lyn Topinka

Bridge of the Gods spanning the Columbia River, Stevenson, Skamania County, Washington, and Cascades Locks, Oregon, 1940s

Postcard

Bridge of the Gods, seen from Oregon side, Stevenson and Cascades of the Locks, Skamania County, May 13, 2005

Photo by Lyn Topinka

Bridge of the Gods spaning the Columbia, looking south from Skamania County, Washington, to Cascades Locks, Oregon, April 22, 2006

Photo by Lyn Topinka

Bridge of the Gods spanning the Columbia River between Skamania County and Cascades Locks, Oregon

Courtesy The Port of Cascades Locks

Depiction of the aboriginal Bridge of the Gods, mural by Larry Kangas (2002), south pier, Bridge of the Gods spaning the Columbia, Skamania County, Washington, and Cascades Locks, Oregon, May 13, 2005

Photo by Lyn Topinka

South pier mural by Larry Kangas (2002), Bridge of the Gods spaning the Columbia, Skamania County, Washington, and Cascades Locks, Oregon, May 13, 2005

Photo by Lyn Topinka