Missouri Route 66

The Chain of Rocks

Illinois Route 66


The mighty Mississippi River separates Missouri from Illinois. The Mississippi River has always been a natural trade route since the earliest times. Native Americans, then trappers and traders plied its waterway from the Gulf of Mexico to villages and outposts far inland. Though it aided exploration and trade into the heart of our great country, just to cross it always posed a problem. In the early days, ferryboats provided a way to get wagons from one side of the river to the other. With the increase in traffic and the advent of the automobile that form of river crossing was just not acceptable anymore. If you stop to think about it, bridges are one of the most important inventions of mankind. No longer would a canyon or river pose a barrier to trade and separate peoples. But to construct a bridge to span the Mississippi River, have it hold up to heavy traffic, resist spring flooding, and still allow ships to pass under it is quite a modern engineering feat. The Chain of Rocks Bridge is such a bridge.

Old Chain of Rocks 1930s

The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge spans one of the most scenic areas of the Mississippi River. When it was completed in 1929 it shortened travel time between St. Louis, Missouri and Edwardsville, Illinois. It is 5,353 feet long and is one of the longest continuous steel truss bridges in the country. One of the most distinctive features of the Chain of Rocks Bridge is the 22-degree bend in the middle. This feature allowed southbound riverboats to align with the current, slip between the Bridge's piers and avoid crashing into two water intake towers midstream just south of the Bridge. The Chain of Rocks Bridge became a part of Route 66 in 1936 and was used until 1968 when the opening of the toll-free I-270 bridges caused a decline in traffic.

Chain of Rocks Bridge

Chain of Rocks Bridge

You may not be able to cross the Chain of Rocks Bridge now-a-days, but Interstate 270 crosses the Mississippi River within view of the old Chain of Rocks Bridge and follows the old path of the Route 66 "belt line" around St. Louis. Interstate 270 rejoins Interstate 44 on the west side of St. Louis in much the same manner as Route 66 rejoined City 66 over 50 years ago. Besides the new Interstate, another factor in the decline of the bridge was that it is just plain too narrow for the modern larger automobiles and trucks. The bend in the middle of the bridge posed a problem too and was the scene of many an accident.

Chain of Rocks Celebration

Caddy on the Bridge

Normally you can not drive over the Chain of Rocks Bridge; but this day in June 2003 was a special occasion and Hampton Inn's Save-A-Landmark® Route 66 Caravan was here to celebrate the history of the bridge. Trailnet granted special permission to cross the bridge. For me it was extremely exciting to be able to say I drove across the Chain of Rocks Bridge. I was in my little four-banger, not one of these vintage vehicles.

Today the Chain of Rocks Bridge stands as a monument to man's ingenuity and is preserved by the City of Madison and Trailnet for use as a pedestrian and bike bridge. But this feat of historic preservation may not have come about at all if it wasn't for a bad economic market for scrap metal in the mid-seventies. Originally the bridge was slatted for demolition in 1975 but the cost of demolition rendered the project unprofitable. That's a good thing to for all of us today. Perhaps the filming of the sci-fi movie "Escape From New York" with Kurt Russell also changed the developer's mind about the economic feasibility of leaving the bridge standing. Whatever the reason, we can all enjoy the Chain of Rocks Bridge today.


Chain of Rocks Exhibit

Mississippi Water Intake

Today autos no longer cross the Chain of Rocks Bridge, it is a pedestrian and bike bridge now complete with Route 66 historical displays.

One of the two water intake towers in the Mississippi River near the Chain of Rocks Bridge hark back to the days when architecture was considered an art form.

St. Louis Arch

St. Louis and the Gateway Arch beckon on to the Route 66 explorer for soon the west bound traveler will be entering the "Fabled West."

Photographs taken June 2003

Click on an area or city of Route 66 on the map below to take a cyber tour of that section of the  Mother Road

Travel Cyber Route 66 in Illinois

Go West on Route 66

NAVIGATION NOTE: Buckle up and hold on to your mouse! These pages are arranged like the map above, from the western state border to the eastern state border. I have set up this site as if you were traveling from EAST to WEST, much like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath. You can click on the Route 66 shields to "travel" the Mother Road in either direction though. Or you can select any shield below to take you to that specific state.

Go East on Route 66

Missouri Route 66

To Chain of Rocks


Select the Route 66 State to Visit



© Copyright 2003  GRandall Web Design Service