6 votes

BNSF - Celilo Bridge


Celilo Bridge

from southwest on Fulton Ridge near Fairbanks Gap

Photo taken by Michael Goff on January 10, 2009


BH Photo #132343


Street Views 


The bridge linking the Oregon Trunk to the Spokane Portland & Seattle Railway’s mainline was to be built directly above Celilo Falls. Location surveys were made in the fall of 1909 and construction was authorized by act of Congress on March 2, 1910. Location of the crossing made it impractical to do concrete work or erect falsework except during low water periods between September and March.

The low water period beginning in September 1910 saw the completion of 29 piers and 3 abutments, all built on what were then exposed rock islands. The piers were built of concrete capped with granite bearing blocks by Porter Brothers Construction Company of Portland.

Erection of the steel superstructure began May 11, 1911. Eight through trusses including a swing span and plate girder approach spans were fabricated by the Pennsylvania Steel Company and erected by the Missouri Valley Bridge & Iron Company. The approach splits into a “Y” with a 952 foot east leg and an 849 foot west leg joining it to the tracks of the SP&S. The distance from the junction of the legs to the Oregon shore is 2396 feet, giving the crossing a total length of 4197 feet. After crossing the Columbia, the bridge concluded by passing over the excavation for the Celilo Canal, the state portage railroad and the mainline of the Oregon Washington Railroad & Navigation Company.

A special train carrying Oregon Trunk Railway President Carl Gray and his honored guests arrived at the $1,000,000 bridge on January 7, 1912. Gray and Mrs. Harps, wife of the engineer in charge of construction, stepped to the rear platform of the president’s car. Mrs. Harps broke a bottle of wine on the trusswork and announced, “With this token I christen this bridge Celilo and pray happiness and prosperity may be the chief fruits of its existence.” Her words were barely audible above the fierce gale blowing through the gorge that day and no further speech making or ceremony proceeded the return of the train to Portland.

The Dalles Dam was completed in 1957 and the waters backed up by it radically altered the character of the Columbia in the vicinity of the great railway bridge. The roaring waters of the thunderous cataract were silenced. The bridge which originally stood 50 feet above the river’s high water mark now saw the waters of Lake Celilo lapping just a few feet below its deck. A vertical lift span replaced the swing span at this time, the sole alteration to Ralph Modjeski’s original design.


Vertical lift bridge over Columbia River on Oregon Trunk Railroad Line in Celilo, OR and Wishram, WA
Celilo, Wasco County, Oregon, and Klickitat County, Washington
Open to traffic
Built 1912
- Missouri Valley Bridge & Iron Co. of Leavenworth, Kansas
- Ralph Modjeski of Bochnia, Poland (Engineer)
- BNSF Railway (BNSF)
- Burlington Northern Railroad (BN)
- Great Northern Railway (GN)
- Oregon Trunk Railway (OTR)
The Celilo Bridge was built near the site of Celilo Falls in 1912. The bridge was originally a fixed span structure, but a swing span was added during the construction of the Celilo Canal which provided marine passage of the falls. In late 1950’s a vertical lift span was added as a part of the construction of The Dalles Dam which flooded the canal and the falls in 1957. The swing span remains in place but has not been operational since the lift span was installed. The bridge consists of six fixed span through Parker trusses, one vertical lift span, one swing span and many plate girder approach spans.
Also called
Oregon Trunk Line Bridge
BNSF - Columbia River Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+45.64846, -120.98159   (decimal degrees)
45°38'54" N, 120°58'54" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
10/657276/5056971 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 38514 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • March 11, 2020: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • December 8, 2018: New photo from Douglas Butler
  • September 28, 2018: New photo from Mike Garland
  • September 27, 2018: New photos from Mike Garland
  • June 8, 2018: New photos from Adam
  • April 19, 2018: Updated by Richard Doody: Added historical info to description
  • April 14, 2018: New photo from Leslie R trick
  • April 7, 2018: New photos from Richard Doody
  • March 4, 2018: New photos from Leslie R trick
  • January 12, 2018: New Street View added by Leslie R trick
  • August 25, 2017: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Added category "Pin-connected"
  • February 28, 2017: New photos from Kyle Jarvis
  • October 10, 2014: New photos from Royce and Bobette Haley
  • October 4, 2014: New photo from Douglas Butler
  • January 12, 2014: Updated by Evin Fairchild: it was built in 1912, not 1911
  • April 3, 2013: New Street View added by Mike Goff
  • January 5, 2011: New photos from Michael Goff
  • April 18, 2010: New photo from Nathan Morton
  • April 21, 2009: New photo from Michael Goff
  • January 13, 2009: Added by Michael Goff

Related Bridges 


  • Mike Goff - michael [dot] goff [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • Nathan Morton - morton890 [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Wikipedia - Oregon Trunk Rail Bridge
  • Douglas Butler
  • Royce and Bobette Haley - roycehaley111 [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Kyle Jarvis
  • Leslie R Trick - Leslie [dot] Trick [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Richard Doody
  • Adam
  • Mike Garland - Rapier342 [at] comcast [dot] net
  • Geoff Hubbs


BNSF - Celilo Bridge
Posted March 29, 2014, by Mark Lesage (rattlesnakerapids [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Please include height of bridge or clearance....so that sailboats can have an idea of the mast falling or not.