The Oregon Trunk Railway Bridge, constructed in 1911, was the first structure to cross this spectacular gorge. Prior to construction the only crossing of the Crooked River in this region was located about a mile upstream, where the canyon's sheer basalt walls begin tapering gradually into the surrounding landscape.
In the early 1900's, railroad tycoons James J. Hill of the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway (SP&S) and Edward Harriman of the Union Pacific began a fierce battle to open central Oregon rail traffic. This battle, one of the greatest in railroad history, played out in the courts, where the SP&S triumphed. In the field, however, where night raids, dynamite, gunfire and fistfights were common, neither railroad triumphed. The Oregon Trunk Railway, a subsidiary of the SP&S, ran from Celilo Falls on the Columbia to Bend - James Hill was on hand in Bend on October 5, 1911 to drive a "Golden Spike" celebrating the line's official opening.