Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Visiting the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

Last week I posted a couple photographs via Instagram that were captured during my family's first visit to the Old Chain of Rocks bridge spanning the Mississippi River.  The bridge is located on the north edge of St. Louis and just downriver of the confluence of the Missouri River merging into the Mississippi.  I'll try not to spew a ton of history, but a few items are noteworthy.  The bridge opened in 1929 carrying motor traffic across the Mississippi River as part of U.S. Route 66.  It's more than a mile in length, but actually has a 22 degree bend occurring in the middle of the span.  Today it carries pedestrian traffic (walking and biking) as part of a trail system.  The bridges unique (and very cool!) name comes from a 17-mile shoal called the Chain of Rocks which made navigating this stretch of the river very dangerous.  Additional info on the bridge can be found here.

Our visit to the bridge was a spur-of-the-moment decision on a Sunday afternoon.  We were out driving through another new (at least, new to us) area when my wife made the suggestion.  A couple weeks back an "Eagle Day" event was held at the bridge, so my wife figured we could visit the bridge and, hopefully, see some eagles.  Getting there required some heavy GPS navigating and a crossing into Illinois (via the new Chain of Rocks bridge) since we decided to access it from the Illinois side.  Upon arrival, a strong historic aspect was present and as we began walking across the bridge I think my wife and I both started imagining how the bridge "looked" in its heyday.  It's hard to think of the immense impact of something like this in 1929, but I'm sure it was huge.

In all, I think we spent almost 3 hours (!!) walking across and back, although it didn't seem that long.  The weather was in our favor, which was a nice deviation from the rest of this winter.  Views from the bridge, both north and south, are quite impressive.  The southern view provides a scene of downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch that is quite different from what one normally might see.  And, we did see some Bald Eagles, probably 20 in total!  Most of them stayed about 1/4 mile downriver on some small sandbars, but we did have one that flew very low and directly above us on its way downriver.  My kids thought that was pretty amazing.  Heck, I know my wife and I thought it was pretty amazing, too.  To end the day, we witnessed an absolutely gorgeous sunset - one of those that stays with you for a while!

I hope you enjoy this set of photos captured during our visit!  As usual, click on each photo to see larger versions.

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