Oregon January 22, 2020
Oregon’s Bridge Of The Gods Is A Man-Made Treasure With A Cool Legend
The Bridge of the Gods is an icon in the Columbia River Gorge, and 1.6 million vehicles cross the bridge every year. It marks the end of the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail, and was even featured in the movie “Wild.” The Bridge of the Gods is a man-made treasure, but it got its name from an ancient legend – have you heard it?
You'll find the Bridge of the Gods in the Columbia River Gorge. On the Oregon side, it's located in Cascade Locks, 44 miles east of Portland. The bridge was completed in 1926, but it got its name from a much more ancient bridge.
Geologists know that there was a massive land slide in the Columbia River Gorge area around 1,000 years ago. The Bonneville Landslide sent rocks, dirt, and debris down the mountain, blocking the gorge completely, and creating a dam and a huge inland lake.
The power of the river wore away the earth underneath the dam, and after many years, it created a natural bridge.
Native Americans living in the area at the time believed that the Great Spirit (also called Manito) had created the bridge to make travel across the river easier for his people. They were worried that the bridge would be washed away, so they prayed to Manito to protect it.
Manito agreed to keep the bridge safe for his people, and they named it "The Bridge of the Gods" to honor him.
Manito sent his three sons to look over the gorge: Wyeast (Mt. Hood), Klickitat (Mt. Adams), and Multnomah (Mt. Rainier). The three brothers kept watch over the gorge and everything was harmonious until Squaw Mountain moved in.
Squaw Mountain was a flirt who was intent on causing trouble. She stirred up a rivalry between Klickitat and Wyeast, and the two brothers fought a fierce battle, spewing ashes and throwing blazing hot rocks at each other. They fought so hard that the whole valley shook, causing the Bridge of the Gods to fall into the river.
When the Bridge of the Gods fell into the river, Manito was very angry. He created rapids in the river to punish his sons.
Geologists today know that the rapids were created by the bridge itself, as the landslide wore away.
The rapids, called the Cascades of the Columbia, actually benefitted the people. The Cascades and Chinookan people fished at the rapids, pulling salmon from the river to feed their families.
While the salmon fishing was excellent, the rapids and debris made navigating the river more difficult, and tension between tribes was common, due to disputes over who had the right to allow commerce through the area.
When the Bonneville Dam was constructed in 1938, it drowned the rapids and made transportation along the river much easier.
Today's steel-truss Bridge of the Gods carries traffic from Oregon to Washington, and stands as an icon in the Gorge. While it's a man-made wonder of engineering, it still honors ancient lore with its name.
Learn more about the Bridge of the Gods on the
Port of Cascade Locks website.
Have you heard the legend of the Bridge of the Gods before? If you’re interested in Native American legends, you might want to read about the
ancient story surrounding Multnomah Falls.
Address: Cascade Locks, OR 97014, USA