Pacific Northwest Lore: The Three Peaks


According to the lore of the Puyallup tribes, long ago a massive landslide of rocks tumbled into the Columbia River near Cascade Locks and formed a natural stone bridge that spanned the river. The bridge came to be called Tamanawas Bridge, or Bridge of the Gods.

In the center of the arch burned the only fire in the world, so the site was sacred to Native Americans. They came from north, south, west, and east to get embers for their fires from the holy fire.

An old woman, Loowitlatkla (“Lady of Fire,”) lived in the center of the arch, tending the fire. Loowit, was so faithful in her task, and so kind to the Indians who came for the flame, that the great chief Tyee Sahale noticed her. He had a gift he had given to very few others, the gift of eternal life.

But Loowit wept because she did not want to live forever as an old woman. Sahale could not take back the gift, but he told Loowit he could grant her one wish. Her wish, to be young and beautiful. Sahale granted this wish and the fame of her extreme beauty spread.

One day Wy’east came from the land of the Multnomahs in the south to see Loowit. Just as he arrived at Tamanawas Bridge, his brother Klickitat came thundering down from the north. Both brothers fell in love with Loowit, but she could not choose between them.

Klickitat and Wy’east had a tremendous fight. Sahale watched all of this fury and became very angry.  He broke the bridge and cursed the three lovers. But, even as he punished them, he loved them. So, where each lover fell, he raised a mighty mountain.

Vancouver wa photography

Because Loowit was beautiful her mountain (St. Helens) was a symmetrical cone, dazzling white. My image, of course, was captured after the eruption of 1981, more like last month!


Wy’east’s mountain (Mount Hood) still lifts his head in pride.


Klickitat, for all his rough ways, had a tender heart. As Mount Adams, he bends his head in sorrow, weeping to see the beautiful maiden Loowit wrapped in snow.


Some scientists suspect that Mount St. Helens also was active during the three decades before 1831, including a significant eruption in 1800. Although minor steam explosions may have occurred in 1898, 1903, and 1921, the mountain gave little or no evidence of being a volcanic hazard for more than a century after 1857. 

The peace of the Mount St. Helens region was broken on May 18th, 1980,  when the volcano exploded back to life. 

If you would like to see more of my landscape work, you can visit my landscape gallery here!

Much of this story I obtained the Oregon State University website here if you want to learn more.


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