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Boating and Biking, the 2022 edition: Day 3, The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

Old chain of rocks bridge

What we did: Bikeway to Old Chain of Rocks Bike and Pedestrian bridge to Missouri from the Alton Marina in Alton, Illinois. About 50 km. It’s our third day of boats and biking. It’s also day 1 of #30DaysOfBiking.

What we loved: The view of the Mississippi River from the Bikeway perched above the levee. Also, the pedestrian/bike only bridge to Missouri.

What’s the scoop on the bridge?

“Chain of Rocks Bridge is one of the more interesting bridges in America. It’s hard to forget a 30-degree turn midway across a mile-long bridge more than 60 feet above the mighty Mississippi. For more than three decades, the bridge was a significant landmark for travelers driving Route 66.

The bridge’s colorful name came from a 17-mile shoal, or series of rocky rapids, called the Chain of Rocks beginning just north of St. Louis. Multiple rock ledges just under the surface made this stretch of the Mississippi River extremely dangerous to navigate. In the 1960s, the Corps of Engineers built a low-water dam covering the Chain of Rocks. That’s why you can’t see them today. Back in 1929, at the time of the construction of the bridge, the Chain was a serious concern for boatmen.”

Read more here.

Also, Chouteau Island was pretty terrific.

“A series of three islands – Chouteau, Gabaret, and Mosenthein – is uniquely situated in the Mississippi River just minutes north of downtown St. Louis. These islands are collectively known as Chouteau Island. The 10-mile length of Mississippi River that borders Chouteau Island to the west is the only natural stretch of river without barge traffic between St. Paul and New Orleans. This section of river is a very high-quality habitat, but also at high risk. Chouteau Island is one of the few locations in the St. Louis Region with direct public access to the Mississippi River for recreation.

Combined, all these islands provide wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, and flood storage on over 5,500 acres. This site has a fulcrum of historic river infrastructure – a one-of-kind 1-mile pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River managed by Great Rivers Greenway. The pedestrian bridge connects Illinoiss and Missouri’s system of trails. All these opportunities are positioned in the middle of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area.”

Chouteau Island

There were also lots of geeky engineering conversations about floods, managing river levels, waterways, etc.

What we loved less: Okay, I’ll fess up it’s mostly me who was bothered by this–gravel! A pretty significant gravel section. With some mud and puddles! My bike got dirty but mostly I’m nervous of falling if my skinny road bike tires get caught in gravel.

Also, it was cold (if sunny). We saw only one cyclist out there today and my sense is that it’s too cold for locals to be out riding.

Overall, this is a pretty great area for cycling if you’re a fan of bike paths and rivers.

Various photos of our ride