The Historic Guffey Bridge — Southern Idaho

Part 9 of 10: Southern Idaho back-road photos

At the western entrance to Celebration Park in Melba, ID, the Guffey railroad bridge spans the Snake River. This historical bridge is Idaho’s largest artifact.

The Guffey Bridge as seen from Celebration Park, near the petroglyphs:


Read more: The Bonneville Flood, Melon Gravel, and
Indian Rock Carvings (petroglyphs)
During the late 19th century, access to and from Silver City and other Owyhee mines was difficult, especially in the winter—narrow roads, steep inclines, and snow. In 1898, to help carry gold and silver ore to the rail hub in Nampa, a mine owner, William Dewey, hired J. M. Guffey of Pittsburgh to design and build the bridge.

Read more: Facets of Silver City
The Guffey Bridge is the only “Parker-Through-Truss” railroad bridge in Idaho. There are many styles of truss bridges (Howe, Pratt, camelback, Baltimore, Parker, etc). Essentially they all feature struts of iron or steel that join together in a series of triangles. Their configuration distinguish the type. These structural triangles interconnect to form the complete bridge. To distribute the load on a bridge, each triangle strut is subject to either push (compression) or pull (tension). This combination neutralizes resisting loads and enables the bridges to span great distances. The Guffey Bridge spans 500 feet and is 70 feet high.

In the early 20th century, gold and silver ore was nearly depleted. So the bridge supported passenger train service until 1948 and then local freight traffic. The bridge was abandoned in 1947. Before being demolished in the 1970s, it was bought by Canyon County which restored it in 1989. The bridge now serves as a walking link between Snake River hiking trails.

Here’s the entrance to the bridge facing south:


The Snake River winding eastward, as seen from the bridge:


The basalt boulders on the north shore of the river:


Fred’s pickup truck, our primary transportation for five days, framed by the bridge:


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