U.S. Highway 97 extends from Weed, California, up to the Canadian border. It runs along the eastern side of the Cascades and is a major north-south route that has become more important with the burgeoning development in eastern Oregon and Washington. Indeed, it has become an alternate trucking route to Interstate-5. Traditionally called The Dalles-California highway in Oregon, it goes directly through Bend, now the largest population center in Oregon east of the Cascades.
About 2.5 miles north of Terrebonne, Oregon US-97 crosses the Crooked River on a high bridge over the Crooked River Gorge. The current span, the Rex T. Barber Veteran Memorial Bridge, was completed in 2000. It is a concrete arch with a span of 410 feet (125 meters) some 300 feet (91 meters) above the river, which places it 22nd in height among U.S. bridges. It replaced the Crooked River High Bridge, which had become inadequate with the increasing traffic on the highway. The High Bridge was built in 1926 and consists of a steel arch with a main span 330 feet (100 meters) long. About 350 feet downstream of the current bridge, it has been preserved for foot traffic, and is the second-highest span to be converted to pedestrian use after Navajo Bridge in Arizona.
A railroad bridge crosses the gorge about 850 feet downstream of the High Bridge. Built in 1911, it consists of a two-hinge arch with a span of 460 feet (140 meters). Both highway bridges mimicked the arch design of the original railroad bridge for aesthetic reasons. This bridge, now part of the BNSF Railway system, is still in use.
Know Before You Go
Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint, on the southwest side of the new span, gives pedestrian access to the old span and provides views of all three bridges. It also includes a picnic area.
The High Bridge is also the site of commercial bungee jumping, said to be the tallest commercial bungee jump in North America. Check the website for details.
The scenic viewpoint is right on US-97 on the south side of the gorge and has plenty of parking. Of course, be especially careful with children and pets. Unrestrained dogs have leaped over the low wall at the cliff edge and fallen to their deaths.