Mississippi Greenway: Improvements to Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

August 10, 2021: We have exciting news to share!

The Mississippi Greenway: Old Chain of Rocks is one of 19 nationwide projects selected to receive funding from the National Park Service through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program. This $990,000 award will be used to add security features, habitat restoration, nature-based stormwater management, and amenities for daily use and special events to this historic site. Learn more about the project below.

Project Overview:

Great Rivers Greenway is working with a variety of stakeholders to create a vision for the Missouri side of the historic Route 66 Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. With the aim of bringing people to the site on a regular basis, this vision is considering safety and security, the entry experience, potential events and the facilities needed to support them.

Project Location:

 The site on the Missouri side of the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge is 16 acres. It is bounded by I-270 to the north, the Mississippi River to the east, the water treatment plant to the south, and Riverview Drive to the west.

Project Partners:

Great Rivers Greenway


Project Status

Current Status

Throughout 2019-2021, Great Rivers Greenway, partners, and community members worked together to plan and design a new vision for the Chain of Rocks Bridge site at the western end of the historic Route 66 Bridge.

Great Rivers Greenway maintains the bridge and area around the bridge on the Missouri side. The site hosts community programs and events such as Eagle Days, Chain of Rocks Car Shows, and numerous runs, bike rides, and historic Route 66 tours. The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge is the northern anchor for the Mississippi Greenway: Riverfront Trail that extends south to the Arch.

The focus of this new vision for the site includes security, natural features, and amenities for daily use and special events.

Although the site was covered with debris from demolished buildings more than forty years ago, natural habitats have returned to the site since then. There is an early successional forest on the site with short-lived trees that are not yet part of a functioning ecosystem. Areas of the site with possible summer bat habitat and low invasive species will be protected.

Throughout 2019, neighbors and stakeholders shared ideas on what will bring people to this site on an ongoing basis and improve safety and security. These ideas were used to create a concept plan in 2020.

We used feedback on the concept plan from neighbors, stakeholders and community members to refine the site plan and create the intermediate design shown below.

Great Rivers Greenway is leveraging local tax dollars with donations and grant funding for the construction of this project.  On August 10, 2021 the Mississippi Greenway: Old Chain of Rocks project was awarded a $990,000 grant from the National Park Service through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program.

This project is in the final stages of design and planning and we hope to break ground fall or early winter 2022.

Features that are currently proposed in the intermediate design to achieve the community priorities for the site include the following:

Security

  • Gated entrance
  • Staff on site during peak hours
  • Fence around site
  • Lighting in parking lot
  • Video surveillance cameras
  • Emergency phone

Natural Features

  • Restoration of wetlands and woodlands that provide food and shelter for native wildlife on site including migratory birds
  • New 1.5 acre reconstructed prairie
  • Permeable parking lot pavement and rain gardens to reduce stormwater runoff from the site
  • Nature trail through native habitats
  • Signs around site explaining native habitats and nature-based stormwater managment

Amenities for Daily Use and Special Events

  • Permeable parking lot and overflow grass lot
  • Shade structure with picnic benches, portable restroom, and artwork reflecting the nature, culture, and history of the area
  • Drinking fountain
  • Direct walking and biking access to historic bridge with river overlook
  • Event lawn and food truck area with water and electricity for community events

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ABOUT THIS PLACE

Did you know that this section of the Mississippi Greenway will connect to regionally significant places such as the banks of the Mississippi River, the Mississippi Flyway, and the historic Route 66? What stories do you know about this place? Share them at www.GreatRiversGreenway.org/ShareYourStory or by calling 314-932-4904.

Natural and built features impact our past, present, and future. During the last ice age, ice blocked the Mississippi River channel in this area – forcing the river to carve out a new route over bedrock. The chain of rocks that remain in the river today for several miles north of St. Louis area a series of strong stone ledges that have not yet been eroded by the flowing water. These rocks made the river dangerous to navigate by boat durint most river stages – and impossible to navigate during low water. To accommodate riverboat traffic, the Army Corps of Engineers built an 8.4-mile-long canal to bypass the chain of rocks in 1953. The rocks that you see just south of the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge are a low water dam built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1964 to raise the water level high enough to cover the chain of rocks upstream and keep the river levels high enough at the top of the canal to allow boats to travel through.

Since prehistoric times, the Mississippi River has been used to transport people and goods – but did you know that birds use it too!? The Mississippi River is the most heavily used migration route for birds in North America. 40% of all migrating birds in North America make the round trip each year along the Mississippi Flyway from their breeding grounds in Canada and the northern United States to their wintering grounds along the Gulf of Mexico and Central and South America. The waterways, wetlands, and woodlands along the Mississippi River are important resting points for these migrating birds.

  • 1894 and 1915 – The two structures that you see in the river that look like tiny castles are built to draw drinking water from the Mississippi River.
  • 1929 – The Chain of Rocks toll bridge – constructed with funding from local entrepreneurs – opens to the public. The one-mile bridge has a 22-degree bend in the middle to prevent boat captains from having to navigate the bridge piers and water intake towers at the same time. Initially, the bridge features an ornate toll booth beneath an amusement park on the Missouri side and a row of 400 elm trees on the Illinois side.
  • 1936 – Route 66 is rerouted over the Chain of Rocks Bridge, and toll profits soar.
  • Early 1940s – The bright red sections of the bridge are painted the dull green that you see today so that the structure is less visible from the air during World War II.
  • 1970 – The Chain of Rocks Bridge closes, shortly after Interstate 270 opens.
  • 1975 – Bridge demolition is planned, but with the low value of scrap steel at the time, tearing down the structure is determined to not be cost effective.
  • 1999 – The Chain of Rocks Bridge reopens to people walking, bicycling, pushing strollers, and using wheelchairs.

 


Mississippi Greenway: Riverfront Trail Crossings at Riverview Drive

Great Rivers Greenway and partners are currently revising planned improvements to the two intersections of the Mississippi Greenway: Riverfront Trail and Riverview Drive to incorporate feedback received from community members and stakeholders. The goals of these improvements are to make it easier for people walking, biking and driving to all see each other and safely share the same space as the greenway intersects the road.

In 2020, MoDOT added a raised median along Riverview Drive in this area between Scranton Avenue and I-270 to prevent passing. Details available at https://www.modot.org/riverview-route-h-resurfacing.