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Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

One of the more interesting features that you can still explore along the former routing of old US Route 66 is the old Chain of Rocks Bridge. The old Chain of Rocks Bridge spans 5353 feet across and about 60 feet over the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri and Madison, Illinois. Constructed in 1927 and 1928, the bridge opened in 1929 and is named for the rocky shoals along this part of the Mississippi River. Because of these rocky shoals, the bridge has a 22 degree bend to accommodate boaters who had to navigate the Chain of Rocks around two water intake towers nearby. It was argued that navigation would have proven to be difficult if the original design for a bridge in a straight line had taken shape. The bridge had opened up in July 1929, over budget at $2.5 million, complete with beautiful landscaping on both ends of a bridge and a toll booth on the Missouri side of the river. By 1936, US 66 was routed onto the bridge.

In 1967, a new Chain of Rocks Bridge carrying I-270 over the Mississippi River just upstream from the old bridge, which led to the old Chain of Rocks Bridge being closed in 1968. During the 1970s, Army demolition teams were debating whether or not just to blow up the bridge for practice, and demolition of the bridge otherwise seemed imminent. If not for a downturn in the market for scrap metal, the bridge would have been lost. Instead, the bridge sat mostly idle for years. Yes, the Chain of Rocks Bridge was used for scenes in the film Escape from New York, but it was not until 1999 that the bridge reopened as part of the Route 66 Bikeway for use by pedestrians and cyclists thanks to the efforts of Trailnet, a St. Louis area bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group. Because the old Chain of Rocks Bridge has not been significantly altered over the years, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. Today, you can park on the Illinois end of the bridge and enjoy a leisurely stroll on the old Chain of Rocks Bridge, which includes some period pieces from old US Route 66.

Eastern end of the old Chain of Rocks Bridge in Madison, Illinois.
Historic US 66 sign.
And if you look closely, a faint US 66 shield design on the pavement.

Enjoying the bridge!
Water intake towers on the Mississippi River.

The Chain of Rocks is now controlled by damming.

The new Chain of Rocks Bridge to the north of the old bridge.

It was such a pleasant March day that some people wore shorts.

Looking at the Missouri end of the bridge.

The old bridge is a bit narrow, I think.

The St. Louis skyline in the distance to the south of the bridge, including the famous Gateway Arch and the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, which carries I-70 across the Mississippi River.
A bike rack, presumably at the state line between Illinois and Missouri.

The US 66 inspired ends of the bike rack have seen better days.

A car for display is also on the bridge.

The famous 22 degree bend in the bridge as the bridge turns towards the Missouri bank of the Mississippi River.


Sources and Links:
Illinois Route 66 - Old Chain of Rocks Bridge
Visit Missouri - Old Chain of Rocks Bridge
National Parks Service - Chain of Rocks Bridge
The Road Wanderer - The Chain of Rocks Bridge
Conor Watkins' Ozark Mountain Experience - Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

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