The sleepy appearance of modern-day Cascade Locks belies its historical significance. The town is perched on a small bluff between the river and I-84, and its services and creature comforts are mostly confined to its main drag, Wa-Na-Pa Street. Below the town were rapids—called the Cascades—that blocked steamboat traffic between Portland  and The Dalles  and caused hardship for raft-bound Oregon Trail pioneers.
Before the shipping locks that inspired the burg’s utilitarian name were constructed in 1896 to help steamboats navigate around hazardous rapids, most boats had to be portaged overland.
The Bridge of the Gods, a steel cantilever bridge spanning the Columbia River at Cascade Locks, was built in 1926, replacing a legendary bridge that, according to Native American myth, spanned this same channel.
The construction of the Bonneville Dam in the late 1930s inaugurated boom times in the area. The dam created 48-mile Lake Bonneville, which submerged the shipping locks.