HOOD RIVER, Ore. (AP) _ In the great Northwest flood, the destruction of ``the bridge to nowhere'' in the middle of nowhere should have been a footnote of a footnote.

Likewise, so should Monday's report the bridge had merely been, well, misplaced.

But this is no ordinary bridge.

After all the headaches the Neal Creek Bridge had caused, including a price tag that bureaucrats fattened from $30,000 to $350,000, Hood River County officials couldn't resist a parting shot last week when they heard it had washed away.

Amid reports of hardship all around, a county press release sarcastically trumpeted: ``BULLETIN: HOOD RIVER COUNTY LOST ITS PRIDE AND JOY, NEAL CREEK BRIDGE ... $350,000, COMPLETED LAST JUNE 1995.''

In 1991, the county had proposed replacing a rundown bridge over Neal Creek with a modest, $30,000 span. But once state and federal agencies got involved, the county wound up with a $350,000 state-of-the-art concrete bridge and a bill for 10 percent of the cost.

The need? Hard to say. The sturdy new bridge connected a paved section of county road with a gravel section leading to one house that may well be vacant _ no one seems to know. Bev Rowland, chairwoman of the county board, nicknamed it the ``bridge to nowhere.''

``It's kind of an embarrassing story,'' she said.

As embarrassing as the county's about-face Monday _ the Neal Creek Bridge was still standing. It turns out a resident who reported the bridge swept away was so muddled by the flood-ravaged terrain that he had looked for the bridge in the wrong place.

Rowland hesitated only momentarily when asked if the news pleased her.

``I'm glad that it survived,'' she said wryly. ``I'd hate to have to replace it.''