The unusual bend in the Chain of Rocks Bridge that made it famous

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ST. LOUIS — The old Chain of Rocks Bridge, located just north of St. Louis, stands as a distinctive landmark for Route 66. Built in 1929, this historical bridge boasts a unique 30-degree turn that sets it apart.

Positioned midway between two pieces of land, the bridge spans over the Mississippi River, contributing to its significance. Designated as part of the National Register of Historical Places in 2006, the Chain of Rocks Bridge earned its name from the multiple rock ledges hidden beneath the surface of the Mississippi River.

The bridge deviated from its original layout as a straight, 40-foot-wide roadway with five trusses forming 10 spans. Concerns from a group of fishermen, who protested its placement near water intake towers for the Chain of Rocks pumping station, led to alterations.

River fishermen warned of potential dangers to vessels and barges navigating the bridge piers and towers simultaneously. The initial straight path would have compromised the weak bedrock beneath, necessitating the eventual bend in the bridge’s design.

Intended to open on New Year’s Day 1929, the bridge faced delays due to flooding and ice, ultimately opening for traffic in July 1929. In 1967, a new Chain of Rocks Bridge opened near the old one, leading to the closure of the original in 1968.

The threat of demolition loomed in the 1970s, but a drop in scrap steel value made it economically unfeasible. Consequently, the bridge endured 20 years of neglect, deemed too costly to demolish and too outdated for modern vehicles.

Director John Carpenter brought temporary fame to the abandoned bridge in 1980 when he used it in ‘Escape from New York.’ In the 1980s, as greenways and pedestrian corridors gained popularity, Trailnet initiated the cleanup and restoration of the old Chain of Rocks Bridge. Reconnecting to over 300 miles of trails on both riverbanks, the bridge reopened in 1999 as part of the Route 66 Bikeway, offering a renewed space for public use.

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