High Bridge Park was the name given in 1913 to the area that follows Latah Creek from Vinegar Flats, south of Interstate 90, to where the creek meets the Spokane River.
At the new 40-acre park, visitors could look up at the recently completed concrete Sunset Highway Bridge overhead and the Monroe Street Bridge in the distance.
In that same year, the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Co. (OWR&N) was building a steel train bridge, which stood 100 feet above the Spokane River, through the park to get trains to the Union Station that was about to open in downtown Spokane in 1914.
The OWR&N, founded in the 1880s, started out operating steamships on the Columbia River and, later, trains heading east from Portland to locations in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Union Pacific took majority ownership of OWR&N in 1898 and full ownership around 1910, providing Union Pacific with a key link to Portland. Incorporating several smaller railroads, it would eventually include 1,143 miles of track around the region. Union Pacific fully absorbed the OWR&N in 1936.
Spokane’s new Union Station brought the Union Pacific Railroad and the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul, known as the Milwaukee Road, together and thus more trains through the city.
When the new station opened in 1914, a Spokesman-Review article marveled at the many new trains traveling through Spokane. A writer described the booming voice of train “caller” Arthur White singing out over the depot’s hubbub, “Number 11! Portland Limited on the OWR&N for Cheney, Marengo, Hooper, Ayer Junction, Umatilla, Arlington, Condon, Sherman, Biggs, The Dalles, Hood River, Cascade Locks, Portland, Aberdeen, Tacoma and Seattle!”
Back at High Bridge Park, the city Park Board built a “tourist camp” for automotive travelers in 1920. The camp filled with trailers and became temporary worker and military housing during World War II, then was removed after the war.
When preparations for Expo ’74 prompted railroads to move train traffic to a single corridor through Spokane, rerouted trains bypassed High Bridge Park altogether. Union Pacific’s steel trestle was torn down around 1978.
Today, the original 40-acre park has been expanded to 200 acres that spans the river and features a dog park, picnic shelters, river access, disc golf and the Sandifur Bridge over the Spokane River.
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