Legend of The Bridge of The Gods
Subject to Storytellers Fancy
Sometimes you see the story of how the natural rock bridge spanning the Columbia River at the "Cascades" came to be destroyed (or created, and then destroyed) abbreviated on cafe placemats, misrepresented on postcards, or romanticized by local chamber of commerce publications. The most common of all starts, "Once upon a time there was this beautiful mountain named Loowit, (the spelling is in dispute) otherwise known today as Mount St. Helens."
According to what may be the authentic legend without the unembellished editing by those raised with Walt Disney animated classics, Tah-one-lat-clah , or "fire mountain" was inhabited by an old crone named Loowit. Long before Europeans appeared on the scene, native tribes could cross the Columbia dry-shod. But when the tribes became greedy and quarrelsome, "Coyote" took steps that eventually led to the bridges destruction.
First he caused all the fires in lodges to go out. Only the fire maintained by Loowit remained burning so that all her neighbors came to her to re-light their campfires. When the Great Spirit asked Loowit to name her reward for peaceful sharing, she coyly suggested her transformation to, "youth and beauty."
And so it came to be. But, once the transformation was complete, she inadvertently rekindled the fires of war. This now lovely young lady attracted the attention of two great chiefs --Pahtoe who ruled over the north side of the Columbia, and Wyeast, who led the Multnomah people south of the river. Mind you this was many years before the rivalry created by being an Oregon Beaver, or a Washington Cougar.
Pahtoe and Wyeast fought for beautiful Loowits favor, causing the earth to rumble by hurling molten rock at each other. Angered at the great chiefs destructiveness, Creator separated the rivals by causing the bridge to fall.
The most popular version of the tale is that Great Spirit changed the principals of the love triangle into mountains. Wyeast became the lofty symbol of Portland, Oregon, Mount Hood, and Pahtoe became Adams, the hidden-one, often mistaken for St. Helens, or Rainier when viewed from afar. The young and beautiful Loowit became St. Helens.
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