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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bridge of the Gods

“Long ago when the mountains were people…”

The Columbia River as seen from vantage point below the current Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks

The Great Spirit settled a land dispute between two brothers by giving them each territory on opposite sides of the Columbia. The Great Spirit made a bridge across the river as a sign of peace.

A natural land bridge on a somewhat smaller scale than the legendary one

The two peoples visited each other for many moons, but soon they became greedy and quarrelsome and began doing evil. The Great Spirit was displeased and stopped the sun from shining on them.

Clear cutting on the Pacific Crest Trail on the way to Table Mountain

The people had no fire and when the rains came, they became cold. They began to pray to the Great Spirit for fire.

Cloud shrouded trees at the edge of the Columbia

The Great Spirit sent an Old Woman (who still had fire) to the middle of the bridge to tend the fire for the people on both sides of the river. In exchange for this task the Old Woman was made young and beautiful.

Soon, the lodges were warm again and the people lived in harmony.

Mt. Hood (Wyeast)

Wyeast, a chief from south of the river and Klickitat a chief from north of the river began to vie for the attention of the beautiful young woman (Loo-wit) who tended the fire.

Mt St. Helens (Loo-wit) and Mt. Adams (Klickitat) ... um, o crap, maybe the one on the right is for sure the flat one on the left is St. Helens

Wyeast and Klickitat became jealous of each other. They fought. Their people took up the fight for them. Many warriors were killed.

The Great Spirit became angry and broke down the bridge. He turned the chiefs into mountains. Wyeast became Mt. Hood. Klickitat became Mt. Adams and the woman they fought over became Mt. St. Helens.

Even as mountains, the two chiefs continued to fight, sometimes hurling hot rocks and flame at each other.

Mt. St. Helens (not as pretty as she used to be)

Geological studies suggest that, not so long ago, a good portion of Table Mountain sheered off and slid into the Columbia, a historical event that may be the basis for the Bridge of the Gods legend.

Table Mountain as it appears from a logging road somewhere above Gillette Lake

NOTE: My source for this paraphrase of the Bridge of the Gods Legend is found in Indian Legends of the Northwest by Ella E. Clark. Evidently, Professor Clark's source for this Klickitat variant of the story was a woman named Lulu Crandall, a historian of the Dalles area who had some familiarity with Klickitat Indians because of her 'pioneer childhood'.


  1. Scott, there is something in the first and fourth images on this page that hits a place deep within that I can only term "home." It brings up a yearning for return... and a recognition that somehow I belong.

    Thank you.

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for your site! I really enjoy your photos and the myths that accompany them. I added one to my face book with an attempt at a link to your site,
    hope that's okay, If not, I can delete it, no problem, THANKYOU,
    Allie Eliza Wren


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