Our 15 hour, one day drive back home from The Gorge Amphitheater in Washington included several stops, and no, not all of them were restroom stops!
Brian was gracious enough to let his road warrior self chill a bit and stop at several of the awesome roadside sights I saw along the way like the Wild Horses Monument near Vantage, Washington and the Stonehenge replica in Maryhill, Washington, as well as the Old Abandoned Methodist Church in Grass Valley, Oregon and the Mount Shasta Viewpoint in California.
As we were driving through Oregon, we all needed a break and time to stretch our legs and get a snack, so we kept our eye out for a rest stop. Imagine our surprise when we came upon a stunning gorge, three large bridges, a huge park, and bungee jumpers all at the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint! Needless to say, Brian pulled into the parking lot and the kids scrambled out the car, running across the grass, with us not far behind as they went to watch the bungee jumpers drop off the High Bridge.
Watching the bungee jumping operation, all done on a big van with special rigging in the middle of the pedestrian bridge, was pretty fascinating… we couldn’t look away! Eventually we checked out the large displays near the Highway 97 Bridge about a local war hero for whom the bridge is named for, and walked out on the High Bridge to get a better view of the Crooked River Gorge — and while looking past the Highway 97 bridge, we saw a waterfall pouring down the side of the cliffs! But, it was the middle of summer, blazing hot, and there was no shade out by the bridges. I was hot and Natalie was getting pink, so we continued exploring the rim of the gorge, following the curvy, walking trail to the Trunk Railroad Bridge and a display about its history.
When we turned around to walk back across the grassy picnic area to the car, the sprinklers turned on and the kids and I couldn’t help but run through them to cool off before continuing our drive home!
Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint
Famous for its vertical basalt cliffs and scenic river canyons, the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint is a rest area and Oregon state park located on the west side of U.S. Route 97. It is easily accessible to north and southbound traffic with a drive through parking and loop exit for both trucks and trailers, but the parking for trucks and vehicles with trailers is very limited.
The rest area sits along the the Crooked River, offering visitors restrooms, picnic tables, grassy fields, incredible views of the Crooked River Canyon, and on clear days, views of Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson. There is even a small waterfall spilling over the sheer cliff on the opposite side of the Rex T. Barber Bridge.
Peter Skene Ogden
Acquired between 1925 and 1930. The Oregon Trunk Railway gave the original tracts to the state of Oregon. Lands were later acquired from the U. S. Government and the State Land Board. At the suggestion of Robert Sawyer, an Oregon State Parks supporter and former Highway commissioner, the area was named in honor of Peter Skene Ogden.
A sign near the parking lots reads:
Oregon History: Peter Skene Ogden
This park is named for Peter Skene Ogden, 1793-1854. In the fall of 1825, Ogden led a Hudson’s Bay Company trapping party on the first recorded journey into central Oregon, crossing the country to the north and east into the Crooked River Valley not far above here. He was in the vicinity again in 1826 bound for the Harney Basin and the Klamath Region, where he discovered Mount Shasta. Ogden was an important figure in the early fur trade and ranged over all the west. He rescued the survivors of the Whitman Massacre.
Jeannace June Freeman
No mention of the murders are made at the park, but it is also the site where, in 1961, Jeannace June Freeman killed two young children by throwing them off the cliff into the Gorge below. Freeman was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death. She was the first woman ever sentenced to death in Oregon, and remained so until 2011.
Central Oregon Bungee Adventures
Central Oregon Bungee Adventures operates on the western edge of the High Bridge in the Peter Skene Ogden State Park. Bungee cords are secured to a truck with a custom-built platform that extends out over the edge of the bridge. Jumpers drop about 250 feet from the platform, bounce up and down a few times, then have a rope dropped to them to be secured to their harness so they can be reeled back in.
Walkway And Historic Bridges
A walkway follows the curving edge of the canyon, taking visitors to scenic viewpoints along the rim with breathtaking views of the 300 foot basalt canyon, the Crooked River, and a waterfall. Carved over centuries by the Crooked River, the Crooked River Canyon created an insurmountable obstacle to travel until 1911 when the first bridge was built.
Today, three generations of bridges span the canyon at the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint:
- Trunk Railroad Bridge
- Crooked River High Bridge
- Rex T. Barber Veteran’s Memorial Bridge (Highway 97)
Oregon Trunk Railroad Bridge
In the early 1900s, railroad tycoon James J. Hill of the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway (SP&S) and Edward Harriman of the Union Pacific began a battle for the rights to open central Oregon to rail traffic. This battle, one of the greatest in railroad history, played out in the courts, where SP&S triumphed.
The Oregon Trunk Railroad Bridge construction began in November 1910. The bridge was built by cantilevering it out from rock walls on both sides of the canyon. When it was completed in 1911, The Oregon Trunk Railway, a subsidiary of the SP&S, ran from Celilo Falls to Bend, and James Hill was on hand in Bend on October 5, 1911 to drive a “Golden Spike” celebrating the line’s official opening.
The steel, two-hinge, arch span bridge was the first structure to cross the Crooked Creek Gorge, and at the time, the second-highest railroad bridge in the United States. Before that, the only crossing of the Crooked River was located a mile upstream, where the canyon’s sheer basalt walls began tapering gradually into the surrounding landscape.
Designed by Ralph Modjeski, the famous bridge architect who designed the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, the Oregon Trunk Railroad Bridge spans 460 feet and rises 320 feet above the river. It is constructed to support two 188.5 ton locomotives pulling loads of 5,000 pounds per lineal foot of track. The first work train crossed The Trunk Railroad Bridge in September 1911, but in the rush to open the bridge, workers only installed 50% of the bridge’s required rivets. The remaining 21,500 rivets were driven over the following five weeks while trains crossed overhead.
Crooked River Bridge
Located upstream from the 1911 Oregon Trunk Railroad Bridge, the Crooked River High Bridge spans the Crooked River Gorge and provides one of the most beautiful scenic points in central Oregon.
Designed by Conde B. McCullough, the bridge is 464 feet long with a 330-foot two-hinged, steel-braced, spandrel deck arch. It standing 295 feet above the Crooked River and was one of the highest bridges in the United States at the time it was built. Locals nicknamed it the High Bridge.
While the bridge is not as elaborate as other bridges designed by McCullough, it does include one of his trademark features, a stairway leading underneath the structure to a scenic overlook. At Crooked River, this stairway is chiseled from lava rock.
Shortly after its completion in 1926, the Oregon State Highway Division created the Peter Skene Ogden Park located south of the bridge.
At only 26 feet wide, the bridge was eventually unable to keep up with growing traffic demands. As a result, the Crooked River High Bridge was turned into a pedestrian bridge and Highway 97 was rerouted across the new, wider Rex T. Barber Veteran’s Memorial Bridge.
Rex T. Barber Veteran’s Memorial Bridge
Traffic on Highway 97 increased from a few cars a day in 1930 to nearly 10,000 cars a day on busy days in the 1990s. Over the years, cars got faster and trucks got bigger, and a new larger bridge was needed. In 1997, construction began on a new Crooked River Bridge, a cast-in-place concrete arch. Measuring 79 feet wide and 535 feet long, the bridge opened in September 2000 and was named for local World War II hero Rex T. Barber.
At the edge of the Rex T. Barber Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, stand two large displays telling the story of Barber’s life and heroism during World War II. Also on display is a proclamation from the State of Oregon Office of the Governor celebrating the new bridge dedication to honor all who sacrificed in service to our country and naming April 18 2003 Rex T. Barber Day.
It lists some of his accomplishments, including:
- The Oregon native was a combat ace during World War II, flying 138 wartime combat missons.
- His attack unit successfully intercepted the bomber carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander of the Japanese Combined Fleet and strategist behind the attack on Pearl Harbor and his plane was shot down by Barber.
- With nearly inconceivable flying skill, safely returned to base with 104 bullet holes in his plane.
- The downing of five enemy planes and his countless combat missions over China and the Pacific earned Barber the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, the Purple Heart, and numerous other military decorations.
- After leaving military service as a full colonel, her returned to Oregon, was elected Mayor of Culver, and served as a volunteer firefighter, Justice of the Peace, and Little League baseball coach.
Know Before You Go
- The Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint is located on US-97, Terrebonne, OR 97760, 29 miles north of Bend, on the border of Deschutes and Jefferson counties.
- The bathrooms are clean and there is a large picnic and grassy fields to have a picnic.
- This Oregon State Scenic Viewpoint is a stop on the Oregon Blue Star Memorial Highway, a tribute to the Armed Forces that have defended the United States of America.
- Between 200,000 and 250,000 vehicles visit the viewpoint every year.
- There is a small waterfall spilling over the sheer cliff on the opposite side of the Rex T. Barber Veteran’s Memorial Bridge.
- Be sure to walk down the lava staircase to the viewing platform below the Crooked River High Bridge, a trademark feature of the bridge designer.
- Central Oregon Bungee Adventures operates at the western end of the Crooked River High Bridge. If you visit at the right time, you can watch jumpers drop 250 feet from the bridge!