I recently got to visit the amazing Chain of Rocks Bridge. The Gateway Arch in St Louis is visible downstream. The bridge was built at one of the most scenic parts of the Mississippi River. The Chain of Rocks Bridge, is named as such because of a rocky area in the Mississippi during low water that looks like there is a small waterfall.
This area used to wreak havoc with navigation and has since been bypassed by a man-made Chain of Rocks Canal. The Chain of Rocks Bridge was privately built in 1929 by an enterprise at a cost of 3million dollars as a toll bridge. This Missouri Bridge spans 5,353 feet over the mighty Mississippi River and is one of the longest continuous steel truss bridges in the country with a unique and distinctive feature of a 22-degree bend in the middle.
This feature allowed the southbound riverboats to align with the current of the Mississippi and slip, sort-of catawampus, between the bridge’s piers and avoid crashing into two water intake towers midstream just south of the bridge. The two water tower intakes are still working and are owned and maintained by Missouri Water Works. These towers were built between 1887 and 1915 and at the time were the largest water filter plant in the world. The two water towers are worth a closer look. Lots of children and adults dream of how cool it would be to stay in one of these “castles” for a night or two. One tower looks a little like Gothic Revival while the other kind is like a Roman ruin from Trier in Germany.
The Chain of Rocks Bridge is now on the National Register of Historic Places and the bridge was featured in the 1981 film “Escape From New York” as the 69th Street Bridge. The old Chain of Rocks Bridge was a vital part of the famous route 66 highway system in 1936 and was used until 1968 when the opening of the toll-free I-270 Bridge created a huge drop in traffic.
The bridge is no longer in use for vehicle traffic and is now part of a really great system of trails specific for foot and bicycle traffic only. In 1998, the bridge was leased to @trailnet.org, a local trails group. The bridge spans the Mississippi River and provides a vital link to the bi-state trail system that connects St. Louis Riverfront trail in Missouri and to the Confluence Trail in Illinois.