Legend has it that this area was home to a magnificent land bridge manifested by the Gods of the local Native Americans. Today it is a steel toll bridge crossing the Columbia River connecting Interstate 84 with Washington State Road 14. It is one of the few crossings between Oregon and Washington.
Legend and Lore
Geologically this is one of the shortest crossing areas between Oregon and Washington over the Columbia River. It is believed that a thousand years ago there was a massive landslide from the north shore of the Columbia River that slid into the river and blocked the Gorge. It created a natural dam and inland sea that extended between Oregon, Washington, and into Idaho. As river pressures began carving out natural bridges and tunnels under this landslide to outlet into the Pacific, eventually the blockage dam was washed away. Some say it originally carved a large natural stone bridge that the Native Americans believed was created by the Gods. Legend has it this land bridge eventually collapsed back into the Columbia River, destroying the inland sea, and creating the Cascade rapids.
Native America legends tell a tale that the Great Spirit Manito created this bridge so his peoples of the Columbia River could cross the river from bank to bank, and it was so called the “Giant Crossover”. This Great Spirit assigned the Wise woman Guardian Loo-Wit to watch over it and protect the river, bridge, and peoples of the area. Out of fear and respect for the Great Spirit, the tribes would appeal for protection while crossing the river. It was eventually called the “Bridge of the Gods” translated and nicknamed as such from the white westerners who came through the area. Manito had sent his sons to earth – the three great mountains: Multnomah the Warrior (Mt. Rainier), Klickitat the totem maker (Mt. Adams), and Wyeast, the singer (Mt. Hood) who all presided over the river and the bridge peacefulling for many years until the beautiful Squaw Mountain moved into the valley between Klickitat and Wyeast. She fell in love with Wyeast while still flirting with Klickitat, causing rivalry and jealousy between the two causing the mountains to fight over her. Their arguing, growling, trembling, and feuds caused lava, ash, and earthquakes to form in their path – and each other hurling white hot rocks at each other. This destroyed the forests, environment, and beauty of the valley – and broke the bridge causing it to fall into the river never to be seen again. Manito was so upset by this, he formed huge rapids in the Columbia River to separate the feuding brothers. Klickitat won Squaw Mountain’s heart and Wyeast admitted defeat, much to the dismay of Squaw who loved him so, and although at the side of Klickitatt with a heavy broken heart, became depressed and fell into a deep permanent sleep and sits today as “Sleeping Beauty” lying just west of Mt. Adams. Klickitat under such shock from Squaw’s depression, once with a high straight head like Wyeast, fell with grief that he dropped his head in shame and never raised it again. Loo-Wit got caught up in the cross-fire during this battle, and fell with the bridge. the Great Spirit rewarded her with a wish, and she asked to be made young and beautiful again – but being old, she did not require companionship so chose a lonely location. She became the most beautiful of all mountains and made her home far west as the beautiful and powerful Mount Saint Helens.
History In 1920 the U.S. War Department issued a construction permit for the bridge to be built for the Interstate Construction Corporation. By 1925 one pier was constructed and the project seemed a failure until the Wauna Toll Bridge Company purchased the project in October 1926 for just over $602,000. They built a large canti-lever bridge with a 707’9″ main span and 211’8″ anchor arms extending 1,131 feet with an overall length of 1,858 feet / 35 feet width across the Columbia River. The original model had a wooden deck and was only 91 feet over the water surface. The bridge had to be raised after the construction of the Bonneville Dam to handle the backwater. This upgrade was funded in part by Congress in 1940 for just over $762,000. The bridge was taken over in 1953 by the Columbia River Bridge Company and eventually purchased by the Port of Cascade Locks Commission for $950,000 on November 1, 1961.
Modern Times The steel construct of the modern “Bridge of the Gods” is owned and operated by the Port authority of Cascade Locks, Oregon. It is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and costs $1.00 to cross for an average automobile. Before the current model, there was a much more spectacular construct. It is a canti-levered bridge that is the third oldest bridge found on the Columbia River.