BRIDGE OF THE GODS is a steel truss “cantilevered” bridge that spans the Columbia River between Cascade Locks, Oregon and Washington State near North Bonneville. It is approximately 64km east of Portland Oregon and 6.4km upriver from the Bonneville Dam. It is a toll bridge operated by the Port of Cascade Locks.
The bridge was completed by Wauna Toll Bridge Company and opened in 1926 at a length of 1,127ft. The higher river levels resulting from the construction of the Bonneville Dam required the bridge to be further elevated in 1940 and extended to its current length of 1,856ft. The Columbia River Bridge Company of Spokane, Washington acquired ownership of the bridge in 1953 for $735,000. The Port of Cascade Locks Commission now operates the bridge.
The bridge is named after the historic geologic feature also known as BRIDGE OF THE GODS. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the Columbia River on the Bridge of the Gods and the lowest elevation of the trail is on this bridge. The Bridge of the Gods serves as the link for hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail to cross the Columbia River to continue their journey on to Washington State. Crossing the Columbia River is the lowest elevation in the 2,600 mile journey. Many hikers reach Cascade Locks in August, and there are several events to celebrate this trail link.
Scientists believe that about 1000 years ago, a giant landslide from the north shore of the Columbia River blocked the “gorge” and stopped the river flow. This natural dam created an inland sea in eastern Oregon, Washington and into Idaho. Over time, water eroded the dam and created an awesome natural stone bridge. Eventually, the bridge fell, creating the Cascade Rapids.
A native American legend also speaks of the creation and destruction of this natural bridge. The People of the Columbia River had great difficulty crossing the Columbia River. Manito, the Great Spirit, was sympathetic and built a stone bridge for them. The stone bridge called the “Great Crossover” was so important that Manito placed LOO-WIT, an old and wise woman, as its guardian.
Over time, the People began to fear that the bridge would wash away and they appealed to the Great Spirit. Manito agreed to protect the bridge, and the grateful People gave it a new name, the BRIDGE OF THE GODS. At about the same time, Manito also sent to earth his sons ——– 3 great snow mountains. MULTOMAH —— The Warrior (Mount Rainier) , KLICKITAT —— The Totem-Maker (Mount Adams) and WYEAST —– The Singer (Mount Hood). All was peaceful until beautiful SQUAW MOUNTAIN moved into a small valley between KLICKITAT & WYEAST. Squaw Mountain grew to love WYEAST, but thought it fun to flirt with KLICKITAT, his big, good-natured brother. Soon, a rivalry sprang up between the two brothers over Squaw Mountain.
They argued, growled, stomped their feet, spat ashes and belched great clouds of black smoke. Each hurled white-hot rocks, setting fire to the forests and driving the people into hiding. Finally, they threw so many stones on to the BRIDGE OF THE GODS, and shook the earth so hard that the stone bridge broke in the middle and fell in the river. Upon hearing this, Manito was so angry and, in punishment for the destruction of the bridge, He caused a series of “huge rapids” to form in the river.
Meanwhile, KLICKITAT won the fight over Squaw Mountain and WYEAST admitted defeat. This was a severe blow to Squaw Mountain as she loved WYEAST. Though she took her place by KLICKITAT, her heart was broken and she sank into a permanent deep sleep. She is known today as Sleeping Beauty, and lies where she fell, just west of Mount Adams. When this happened, KLICKITAT had a high straight head like WYEAST. But KLICKITAT truly loved Squaw Mountain, and her fate caused him such grief that he dropped his head in shame and has never raised it again.
During the war LOO-WIT, the guardian of the bridge, tried to stop the fight, but she failed and fell with it. The Great Spirit heard of her faithfulness and promised to grant her a wish. She asked to be made young and beautiful once more. However, being “old in spirit”, she did not desire companionship. The Great Spirit granted LOO-WIT her wish. He turned her into the “most beautiful of all mountains” and allowed her to settle by herself far to the west. She is now known as “the youngest in the Cascades”, the beautiful and powerful —— MOUNTAIN SAINT HELENS.
The BRIDGE OF THE GODS, as it exists today, was created in a much less dramatic fashion than the original bridge, but it sits in beautiful contrast to the powerful scenery of the Gorge. The CANTILEVERED BRIDGE is the 3rd oldest bridge on the Columbia River.
In 1920, the US War Department issued a construction permit for the bridge to the Interstate Construction Corporation. By 1925, the Company had managed only to construct 1 pier. Wauna Toll Bridge Company purchased the Interstate’s interest in the bridge in October 1926 at a cost of $602,077. The finished structure has a “cantilever” main span of 707’9″, with 211’8″ anchor arms. The total “cantilever” structure length is 1,131ft and the overall bridge length is 1,858ft, with a width of 35ft. The original bridge had a wooden deck and was 91ft above the river.
The 1938 completion of Bonneville Dam necessitated raising the bridge 44′ to accommodate the rise in backwater. Congress allotted funding for the project which was completed in 1940 for $762,276.
In 1953 the Columbia River Bridge Company acquired the bridge, and after 8yrs of discussion, the Port of Cascade Locks Commission purchased the bridge with $950,000 in Revenue Bonds, issued on 1st November, 1961. Today, the bridge is owned and operated by the Port of Cascade Locks. In 1966, the Commission authorized a second $300,000 Revenue Bond for re-decking, painting and construction of a new Toll Canopy.
Revenues from the bridge pay for maintenance, paintings, inspections and port operations. The Bridge Toll House is open 24hrs a day and serves as the emergency relay station for police departments on both sides of the river. Annual traffic is an average of about 1.6 million. Annual value of goods that cross the bridge is about $35 million per year.