Coming from the south, the road brought you out of the Salmon River canyon and up onto the prairie, lifting you about 2,700 feet on a corkscrew path. It was a thrill to look down into the draws along the road to see the carcasses of cars that had failed to negotiate a turn. Legend has it that a woman from Massachusetts refused to ride down the hill with her husband. He drove the car slowly while she walked behind.
But all that changed in 1975 when the 811-foot span was dedicated. Governor Cecil D. Andrus is shown in this Idaho Transportation Department photo at the dedication. He famously referred to the old Highway 95 as a “goat path.”
The project, building the road and building the bridge, took ten years. It was a challenge just getting the 26 steel bridge sections to the site from Indiana where they were made. They weighed between 116,000 and 148,000 pounds. Each section arrived by truck. The first one slipped off the flatbed near Riggins causing minor injury to the rear steering unit driver. It took 45 days to get the steel sections on site so they could be assembled.
Today traveling the stretch between White Bird and the prairie above is easy enough, though it still provides some heart-stopping views into the valley. You can even spot the Seven Devils in the distance from the top of the hill if you know where to look. The old road is still in place. I’ve taken it a few times in a sports car just for grins.