Central Oregon's roads were primitive at best during the early 1900s. Until the 1920s, US Highway 97 was a collection of unpaved roads. Prior to construction of the Crooked River (High) Bridge in 1926, the only nearby crossing was a small, one-lane wood structure, called the Trail Crossing, located about a mile upstream.
The Crooked River (High) Bridge is 464 feet long, and at 295 feet above the river it was the nation's highest single arch span when constructed. Oregon's famous bridge engineer, Conde B. McCullough, designed the bridge to blend gracefully with the region's rugged landscape — harmonizing with the Oregon Trunk Line Railway Bridge (1910) downstream.
McCullough engineered this bridge to accommodate the needs of the 20th century, and it was the only automobile crossing of the Crooked River Gorge for more than 70 years. Increased traffic, larger vehicles, and heavier loads, made the bridge obsolete by the late 1990s, just as the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) began construction of a new bridge. Today, the High Bridge is open to pedestrian traffic offering spectacular views of the canyon as part of the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint.
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"The bridge stands as a symbol of all that the building of modern highways has meant to central Oregon. In it people see the fruitation (sic) of their greatest hopes, the last link in the modern highway that stretches from north to south across the state east of the Cascades, bringing tourists to their doors, bringing the farms closer to the cities, uniting the cities themselves in a spirit of neighborliness, where the lack of transportation in the old days meant isolation."
The Portland Oregonian
July 15, 1927
Conde B. McCullough (1887-1946) believed that bridges should be built efficiently, economically, and aesthetically. During his tenure as State Bridge Engineer, McCullough was responsible for the design of hundreds of bridges characterized by architectural elegance. Today, several McCullough bridges are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Prior to the construction of the Crooked River (High) Bridge in 1926 (right), the Oregon Trunk Railway Bridge (1911) was the only structure crossing the Crooked River Gorge.