The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge stretches across the Mississippi River on the north edge of St. Louis, Missouri. It was a narrow bridge, made of concrete and steel, with a 22-degree bend midway over the river. It was said that two large trucks would not be able to pass each other because of its narrow berth. Originally, the bridge was a motor route used by U.S. Route 66 to cross over the Mississippi. Today, the bridge is used for pedestrians and biking traffic over the river. However, the new Chain of Rocks Bridge carries vehicular traffic to the north.
The old route to the bridge is now called Chain of Rocks Road and ends near Roman Road. Parking is available at the beginning of the pedestrian route. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
History of Old Chain of Rocks Bridge crossing the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, Missouri
In 1865, the area was chosen as a site for the St. Louis waterworks, with construction beginning in 1887. The water plant opened in 1894. A filter plant was added in 1915. The Chain of Rocks Bridge was privately built as a toll bridge in 1929 at a cost of $3 million and later given to the city of Madison, Illinois, the current bridge owner.
In the late 1930’s, US 66 was designated over this bridge and around the northern and western parts of St. Louis to help avoid the heavy traffic in the downtown area. On August 2, 1966, the tolls were shut down by the City of Madison, which marked an end to the turmoil with the State of Missouri over the toll situation. In 1966, the New Chain of Rocks Bridge was built immediately to the bridge’s north to service I-270; the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge was subsequently closed on February 25, 1970.
For more than thirty years, the fate of the bridge was uncertain, and demolition looked like the only viable solution. The high cost of demolition, however, delayed its demise and subsequently a new use for the bridge was formulated. During this time, the bridge was developing a reputation for unsavory activities and violence, which included the April 1991 murder of sisters Julie and Robin Kerry. The bridge was used as a movie backdrop for Escape from New York in 1981, with the bridge being used as the “69th Street Bridge”.
In 1998, the bridge was leased to Trailnet, a local trails group, to operate and oversee the biking and walking trails. Four-and-a-half million dollars were spent on renovating the bridge for pedestrian and cycling trail use.
From the Illinois side of the bridge, signs marked “HISTORIC ROUTE 66 SPUR” take travelers to the Illinois side of the bridge and a “HISTORIC ROUTE 66” sign marks the Missouri side of the bridge. From the bridge, the Gateway Arch can be seen, and immediately downstream from the bridge, two water intakes for the St. Louis Waterworks are visible. One is vaguely Gothic Revival in style; the other closely echoes Roman ruins from Trier in modern Germany.