Best Attraction To Take Out-Of-Towners

Old Chain Of Rocks Bridge

Had the price of scrap steel not dropped dramatically in 1976, making the old Chain of Rocks Bridge unprofitable to demolish, current visitors would be denied the splendid view of downtown St. Louis, shimmering like some fabled kingdom. Opened for traffic in 1929, the bridge, part of old Route 66, connected North St. Louis with Madison, Ill. By 1968 the bridge was closed, another industrial relic with no visible future. Thirty years later, Trailnet, a civic organization, finagled a perfectly practical reincarnation for the structure: a pedestrian thoroughfare that will link miles of trails now being developed on both sides of the river. Today, the bridge attracts walkers, bicyclists, Rollerbladers, wheelchair-bound amblers and even a band of skipping enthusiasts. Walking the 1.2-mile length and back takes about an hour; there are picnic tables and outlooks along the way. Chouteau Island looms in the distance, and, closer, two late-19th-century water-intake towers look like gothic mansions or, as one observer remarked, "a place where Batman's enemies would hide out." Approaching the Illinois side, one may peer down on the lush backwaters of the Mississippi and, with any luck, see egrets fishing, raccoons scampering and snakes undulating through the duckweed. Since its reopening in 1999, the bridge has been the site of an Earth Day celebration, nationally sponsored bicycle tours and much more; it has so much going for it that it cannot help but become one of the area's premier attractions. The old Chain of Rocks Bridge is open weekends from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., April-Thanksgiving.
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