Currently, the Bridge of the Gods
, is a white, steel
that crosses the Columbia River
near Cascade Locks
(on the Oregon
side) and Stevenson
(on the Washington
side). It was built in 1926, however, due to the Great Depression
, it was not raised until 1938. It was, for a time, one of the better (and only) places one could cross the river upstream of Portland
with using a boat. Despite its relatively recent vintage
, its name references a much older legend
(I'm a little out of practice, and there are about a dozen versions of this legend floating around. So, if I've made any mistakes, somebody correct me or post an alternate version.)
s of the Lower Columbia River
tell a story about a bridge
that once spanned the Columbia River
, some legends call it Tamanous, others call it Tabmahnawis, and still others have different names for it, but it is best known among the white settler
s and their descendants as the Bridge of the Gods
. For, you see it was formed by Tyee Sahale
, as gift for the Multnomah and the Klickitat people, who would be joined by it as long as they were good and friendly with each other.
Many years passed, and the two peoples began to quarrel
among themselves, becoming selfish
. Tyee Sahale
, angered, deprived the people of fire
and they suffered in the cold
. Finally, they begged Tyee Sahale
for fire, for mercy, and so he granted it to them. For, you see, one old woman had remained kind and selfless and giving, and her name was Loowit.
So, Tyee Sahale
went to her and said, "If your share your fire
, I will give you anything you wish."
"Then," she said,"I wish for eternal you and beauty."
So, Tyee Sahale granted her wish and instructed her to tend her fire in the middle of the bridge, so that both peoples could take some of her fire with them. This she did, and by the setting of sun, the lodges were again filled with the flicker of flames. Because of her great beauty, however, two young leaders of the peoples, one from the north and one from the south, fought for her attention. Pahtoe was from the north and he was somewhat older and a skilled warrior. While, Wy'east, from the south, even though younger and less skilled, was an able and enthusiastic fighter. Their rivalry soon turned to violence into which they drew their two peoples. Tyee Sahale saw this, turned Pahtoe and Wy'east into mountains that are today known as Mount Adams and Mount Hood, and then, Loowit herself became a mountain, one which is known today as Mount St. Helens. Then, he came to the river and destroyed the bridge. Even after they were transformed, the two leaders continued to battle, throwing flaming rocks at one another, some of which missed the mark and fell into the Columbia River. Finally, they stopped quarreling, and peace returned to land between them. Pahtoe, being older and wiser, realized what had happened and hung his head in shame, which is why Mount Adams seems so low despite still being great. While, Wy'east, still young and proud, held his head high, hoping that Loowit would see him, which is why Mount Hood though smaller comes to a great peak. Thus, it was the wickedness and jealousy of the two leaders which destroyed the Bridge of the Gods, and divided the peoples.