The Joso High Bridge

Around 1910 when construction began on this massive span, it was still the golden age of railroads. The Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company planned a new track between Portland, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington. This 104-mile line would cut 51 miles off the previous shortest route and promote commerce between the two cities, but first they had to across the deep Snake River Gorge.

Raising this bridge was a major feat of engineering, and deadly. The bridge was constructed simultaneously from both banks. The most difficult part of construction was placing the support pedestals in the rushing waters of the Snake River. Construction workers, many of them African-American, descended beneath the river in pressurized caissons, risking not only the fast waters but decompression sickness when they surfaced. Other workers died when high winds stripped them off the bridge superstructure, as much as 260 feet over the rushing river. Asked about the dangers of the job, a worker later recalled that "They lost one a day."

Completed in 1914, the Joso High Bridge is 3,920 feet long. It uses 24 steel-tower supports, and cost two million dollars - a huge sum in that day. Officially known as the Snake River Viaduct, the bridge gained its current name from Leon Jaussaud, a local rancher who supplied the building crews.


Joso High Bridge

Joso High Bridge

Over 100 years old, the Joso High Bridge remains in regular use today. | Source: Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation. View File Details Page

Joso Construction

Joso Construction

At the time of its construction, the Joso High Bridge was one of the most ambitious and expensive railroad trestles built in the Pacific Northwest. | Creator: Image courtesy the Wikimedia Foundation. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Josh M Bliesner, “The Joso High Bridge,” Ice Age Floods Explorer, accessed October 22, 2017,

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