In the depths of Melba lies a massive iron historical landmark which is turning 120 this year! The Guffey Railroad Bridge was once used to transport railroad cars filled with silver across the Snake River. Now the bridge serves more as a landmark than as access to what’s on the other side. This railroad used to span all the way through Silver City, Idaho which is over 40 miles away.
The gigantic steel structure measures 270 feet tall with the walkway being 70 feet above the water, making fishing off the bridge near impossible! Yet with the right equipment, could be quite an adventure seeing as there are plenty of fish who make their way under the bridge daily.
Previous to the bridges construction, ferries were the only way of spanning the Snake River. When Colonel William H Dewey proposed to build the bridge, plans were so complex that only five firms in the country were qualified to make a bid. The parts for the bridge were assembled in Chicago then sent to Idaho by railroad. Construction on the bridge began in July of 1897 and was finished by the end of the summer. In total, the bridge weighs 450 tons.
The bridge was retired from railroad use in 1947. In the 1970s, it was almost demolished but it was saved and restored by the Canyon County in 1989. Today the bridge is a part of an educational program at Celebration park. It is included as part of the National Registry of Historic Places. Guffey Bridge remains to be Idaho’s sole standing Parker-Through-Truss railroad bridge.
After The Glory Days
After the bridge was abandoned in 1947, the US Army Corps used it as target practice. You can still see the holes today! After the plans to have the bridge demolished were leaked, the Idaho Historical Society stepped in to buy the bridge. Later the bridge was gifted by the Idaho Historical Society to Canyon County for the incredibly generous price of $1.
In efforts of preservation, many communities came together to fix up this old bridge. After the railroad tracks were removed, a local engineer drew up plans for a wooden walkway. Idaho Fish and Game then provided funding for the materials. After this, a wooden walkway was fastened to the bridge by military members from as far away as the East Coast. Completion of the project was on September 7th of 1991, exactly 94 years after the original completion of the bridge.
Now the main focus for this bridge is education. Over 12,000 students each year visit this bridge to learn about this history of mining and Guffey Bridge. Students even have to opportunity to walk across this historical landmark.
Idaho is full of amazing landmarks like these that play a huge role in who we are today! If you want to know more about fascinating places to visit, feel free to give me a call! I’m always happy to chat about why I love my home!