Click image to enlarge
South Support, Bridge of the Gods, Cascade Locks, Oregon.
Image taken October 18, 2010.
Bridge of the Gods ...
On the south support structure of the Bridge of the Gods is a wonderful large mural showing the legend, local wildlife, and historical events of the Bonneville Landslide and the Cascade Rapids, the Cascade Locks, and the Bridge of the Gods area. The mural was completed in May 2002. The artist was Larry Kangas.
There is a legend behind the "Bridge of the Gods".
The Legend ...
Various versions of the "Bridge of the Gods" legend exist, all with a common theme of volcanoes and a land bridge. The most common version given has it that
the sons of Old Coyote, Wy’east
(Mount Hood) and Pahto (Mount Adams), were powerful braves both in love with a maiden
(Mount St. Helens). Because they crossed the
“Bridge of the Gods” to fight over their love for
her, Old Coyote collapsed the land bridge to keep
his sons from fighting.
Click image to enlarge
Legend, South Support, Bridge of the Gods, Cascade Locks, Oregon.
Image taken October 18, 2010.
One version of the legend is given in Katharine Berry Judson's Myths and legends of the Pacific Northwest, especially of Washington and Oregon, published in 1912.
The Bridge of the Gods
"... Long ago, when the world was new, Tyhee Sahale with his two sons, came down Great River. They came near where the Dalles now are. The land was very beautiful and each son wanted it. Therefore they quarrelled. Then Sahale took his bow and shot two arrows. One he shot to the north; the other he shot to the west. Then Sahale said to his sons, "Go. Find the arrows. Where they lie, you shall have the land."
One son went north over the plain to the country of the Klickitats. He was the first grandfather of the Klickitats. The other son followed the arrow to the Willamette Valley. He was the first grandfather of the Multnomahs.
Then Sahale raised great mountains between the country of the Klickitats and the country of the Multnomahs. This he did that the tribes might not quarrel. White men call them the Cascade Mountains. But Great River was deep and broad. The river was a sign of peace between the tribes. Therefore Sahale made a great stone bridge over the river, that the tribews might be friends. This was called the Bridge of the Tomanowos.
The tribes grew, but they did evil things. They displeased Tyhee Sahale. Therefore the sun ceased to shine, and cold and snow appeared. The people were unhappy for they had no fire. Only Loo-wit had fire. Therefore the people sought to steal the fire of Loo-wit. The Loo-wit fled and because the runners were stiff with cold, they could not catch her.
Then Loo-wit told Sahale of the need of the Indians. Loo-with said the Indians were cold. So Sahale gave fire to the people. Thus Sahale built a fire on the bridge of the gods, and there the people secured fire. Sahale also promised to Loo-wit eternal youth and beautry. Thus Loo-wit became a beautiful maiden.
Then began the chiefs to love Loo-wit. Many chiefs loved her because she was so beautiful. Then came two more chiefs, Klickitat from the north and Wiyeast from the west. To neither would Loo-wit give an answer. Therefore the chiefs fought, and their people also fought. Thus did they anger Sahale. Therefore, because blood was shed and because Great River was no longer a sign of peace, Sahale broke down the tomanowos illahee. Great rocks fell into the river. They are there even to this day. When the water is quiet, buried forests can be seen even to this day. Thus Sahale destroyed the bridge of the gods. Thus the tribes were separated by Great River.
Then Sahale made of Loo-wit, Klickitat, and Wiyeast snow peaks. Always they were to be cold and covered with ice and snow. White men call them Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Hood. ..."
Katharine Berry Judson, 1912, Myths and legends of the Pacific Northwest, especially of Washington and Oregon.
Another version of The Legend was given in the 1885 publication "History of Clarke County, Washington Territory", by B.F. Alley and J.P. Munro-Fraser, published in Portland, Oregon, 1885. This verson tells of how the "natural bridge" spanning the Columbia was collapsed to bring the salmon to the surface so the Indians might fish.
The Bridge of the Gods
"... One of the most remarkable tales which the old men along the Columbia told
to the whites, was that in regard to a natural bridge across the river at
the Cascades, and on this the evidence of all tribes is so clear that it
leaves little doubt in the minds of those who have examined the matter,
but that their story or prophecy is true. The legend is simply this -- In
the days of the great-great-grandfathers of the old men of 1830 which
would be somewhere in 1500, a natural bridge spanned the Columbia river at
the Cascades where the "tumwater" now is. At that time the water flowed
under the bridge undisturbed by the rapids, and there was no occasion for
the salmon in their passage up the river to come to the surface or leap
into the air. The consequence was that the fish remained down deep in the
stream and the Indians could not catch them. Neighboring tribes came to
this bridge and crossed over it, and it was so solidly arched that it
seemed as if it would stand for ever. Disturbance, however, took place
between the tribes both up and down the stream and the consequence was
that the people at the Cascades being deprived of their salmon were on the
point of starvation. They had always been faithful and obedient to the
Great Spirit and in the day of their need He had forgotten them. He
signified to the prophets of the great-great-grandfathers of the old men
of 1830, that He would come to their aid and would bring the salmon to the
surface and compel them to leap into the air that they might be speared
and captured. Accordingly he stirred up enmity between Mounts Hood and St.
Helens, and the two went to war. They showered ashes and hurled
thunderbolts at each other. The sky was black with smoke and the heavens
were pierced with lightnings that leaped between the warring mountains;
the earth and river rose to an unatural height; the Indians fled to the
hill-tops in dismay; the contest redoubled, and again the earth shook; a
great crash was heard, the natural bridge fell down, and the whole
disturbance was stopped. When the Indians returned to the Cascades they
found that the deep fathomless channel which carried off the waters before
and allowed the salmon to pass their camp scot-free, was filled with
bowlders and great rocks and a magnificent " tumwater " was in this way
formed, over which the salmon leaped, and never afterwards was there
scarcity in the camp.
Alley, B.F., and Munro-Fraser, J.P., 1885, "History of Clarke County, Washington Territory", Portland, Oregon.
Two versions of The Legend were found in the July 21, 1860 Scientific American, found online at the U.S. Library of Congress, American Memories website (2007). Both of these versions have Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood as a married couple. The Submerged Forest upstream of the Cascades Rapids is mentioned as possible proof.
VOLCANOES OF THE NORTHWEST.
The following interesting article is from the Des Moines (Iowa)
"Mount Baker and Mount St. Helens, in Washington territory, are active
volcanoes; the former smokes considerably, and occasionally shows a red
light at night. St. Helens smokes a very little, the smoke in the
day-time resembling a thin column of white steam. There has been no
eruption of St. Helens since 1842, at which time it covered the country
with ashes to the Dalles, distant one hundred miles. Great streams of
hardened lava are found in various places in Mount St. Helens and Mount
Adams, and probably near the other sister volcanic peaks. Mount St.
Helens and Mount Baker are the only active volcanoes on the American soil,
unless Mount Shasta (which sometimes smokes a little, but not enough for
the smoke to be seen from the foot of the mountain) be added to them.
Mounts Hood, Rainer, Jefferson and Adams were undoubtedly volcanoes once,
but they are now extinct. In a paper contributed by George Gibbs to the
documents relating to the survey for a northern Pacific railroad, he says
the Indians have a characteristic tale relating to Mounts Hood and St.
Helens, that they were formerly man and wife, but they quarreled, and
threw fire at each other, and that St. Helens was the victor, since when
Mount Hood has been afraid, while Mount Helens, having a stout heart,
still burns. There was still a further tradition among the Indians, when
the writer was in Oregon, that Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens, were
connected by a continuous ridge or chain, and that the Columbia river,
which runs between them, had a subterranean passage at the point known as
the 'Cascades.' The Columbia then had a smooth, even course, under an
immense arch of the mountain, but that unfortunate matrimonial difficulty
above referred to did not end in throwing fire; they also broke down the
conjugal arch, which fell with a thundering crash into the river, and
formed the 'Cascades.' The 'Cascades' are from one to two miles in
length, and have a fall of about twenty feet per mile. Their appearance
would indicate that there might be some truth in the tradition, and that
it occurred at no very distant period -- perhaps within the last century.
The opinion is sustained by the geological formation above the 'Cascades,'
where the river spreads out and becomes a lake, some twenty miles in
length and several in breadth. The bottom of the lake in many places is
covered with a heavy growth of timber standing upright, in the exact
condition it grew, no doubt, and reaching to the top of the water, say
from 20 to 30 feet. The tops of the trees have long since disappeared,
making the surface of the lake, at low water, look like a clearing full of
stumps. On examination, the wood was found to be quite sound below the
water. An answer to the question, how long has the forest been submerged
? might also fix the period when these volcanoes became extinct."
Scientific American, July 21, 1860, courtesy U.S. Library of Congress, American Memories website, 2007.
From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...
Clark, November 1, 1805 ...
A verry Cool morning wind hard from the N. E. [Lewis and Clark's camp of October 31, 1805, was across from Cascade Locks, on an island off the Washington shore near Ashes Lake, now under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir.] The Indians who arrived last evining took their Canoes on ther Sholders and Carried them below the Great Shute ["Lower Falls of the Columbia", the "Cascade Rapids"], we Set about takeing our Small Canoe and all the baggage by land 940 yards of bad Slippery and rockey way
[this rocky location later became the location of the Bridge of the Gods]
The Indians we discoverd took ther loading the whole length of the portage 2½ miles, to avoid a Second Shute [Lower Cascades, by Bonneville Dam] which appears verry bad to pass, and thro' which they passed with their empty canoes. Great numbers of Sea Otters [Harbor Seals], they are So cautious that I with dificuelty got a Shot at one to day, which I must have killed, but could not get him as he Sunk
we got all our baggage over the Portage of 940 yards, after which we got the 4 large Canoes over by Slipping them over the rocks on poles placed across from one rock to another, and at Some places along partial Streams of the river. in passing those canoes over the rocks &c. three of them recived injuries which obliged us to delay to have them repared. [the lower end of the portage at Fort Rains]