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UP - Joso High Bridge


Photo taken by Historic American Engineering Record

View photos at Library of Congress

BH Photo #130813

Street Views 

The Joso or High Line Bridge - A Brief History 

Written by Richard Doody

Construction crews from the Missouri Valley Bridge & Iron Company arrived at Lyons Ferry in 1910. A quarter mile below the mouth of the Palouse, they began the task of bridging the Snake River with one of the longest and highest railway bridges in the world. The bridge was ordered by the North Coast Railroad. That firm was absorbed by the O.W.R. & N. shortly after the project commenced. The structure was completed September 14, 1914.

The new bridge cut 52 miles and four and a half hours off the old Spokane to Portland route, perhaps justifying the railroad’s $2,000,000 investment. The toll in human life was harder to justify. Many workers succumbed to caisson disease as they dug sixty five feet into the river bottom to provide a solid footing for the piers. Others fell from the steel that carries the rails 285 feet above the water. Their bodies were often swept far downstream where they would be recovered days or weeks afterwards.

A reporter for the Walla Walla Union visited the site of the nearly completed bridge in the summer of 1914 and painted a vivid portrait of the twentieth century’s intrusion upon the ancient landscape…

“From a distance one can see the tablelands, bluffs and pyramid shapes for a great distance. Across the river and east from the ferry is an old Indian camp. Chief Bones, totally blind and apparently as old as the hills still lives there. He has good health and likes to talk to strangers.

While the bridge is now an interesting sight it was more interesting while it was being built. The men moved around the gigantic structure, high in the air, as nonchalantly as though they where but a few feet from the ground. Rivets were heated on top of the bridge and tossed, red hot 50 feet, to some man hanging on to nothing apparently. The workman used an old powder can or tin bucket to catch the rivets, rarely missing one, took a pair of pincers and inserted the bit of metal in a hole in the steel frame and then a compressed air hammer was used to rat-tat-tat them into place and shape.”

The 3920 foot long bridge, supported by two dozen steel towers, still carries the trains of the Union Pacific Railroad across the Snake and is the longest and highest bridge on that company’s system. The High Line Bridge is sometimes referred to as the Joso Bridge after Leon Jussaud who operated a sheep camp near its north end at the time of construction.


Massive deck truss bridge over Snake River on the Union Pacific Railroad
Walla Walla County, Washington, and Franklin County, Washington
Open to railroad traffic
Built 1914
- Kelly-Atkinson Construction Co. of Chicago, Illinois
- Missouri Valley Bridge & Iron Co. of Leavenworth, Kansas
- Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Co. (OWR&N)
- Union Pacific Railroad (UP)
Warren deck truss
Total length: 3,920.0 ft. (0.7 mi.)
Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
Approximate latitude, longitude
+46.59358, -118.22848   (decimal degrees)
46°35'37" N, 118°13'43" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
11/405898/5160734 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Starbuck West
Inventory number
BH 38418 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • February 16, 2022: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • August 4, 2021: New photo from John Bernhisel
  • July 22, 2020: New photo from Patrick Gurwell
  • June 11, 2020: New photos from Patrick Gurwell
  • April 26, 2020: New photos from Patrick Gurwell
  • May 5, 2019: New photos from Leslie R Trick
  • April 20, 2018: Essay added by Richard Doody
  • April 19, 2018: New photos from Richard Doody
  • February 7, 2017: New photo from Kyle Jarvis
  • October 7, 2015: New photo from Kyle Jarvis
  • November 27, 2012: New photos from Adam
  • September 21, 2011: New Street View added by Michael Goff
  • December 22, 2008: Added by James Baughn

Related Bridges 


  • HAER WA-132 - Joso High Bridge
  • James Baughn - webmaster [at] bridgehunter [dot] com
  • Mike Goff - michael [dot] goff [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • Adam
  • Historicbridges.org - by Nathan Holth
  • Kyle Jarvis
  • Richard Doody
  • Leslie R Trick - Leslie [dot] Trick [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Patrick Gurwell - pgurwell [at] gmail [dot] com
  • John Bernhisel - Johnmbernhisel [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Geoff Hubbs