Chain of Rocks Bridge
Day 5 – Our next big stop – the Chain of Rocks Bridge. This bridge is 1 miles long with a 20-degree bend. Closed to automobile traffic, it is a fun and scenic walk. As a result of it being a 2 mile walk, plan your time. It closes at dusk.
We arrived on the Missouri side of the bridge and discovered you can’t park. I pulled it up on my Route 66 app and read it is only accessible from the Illinois side. We drove quite a distance in order to access it. In fact, we were near it last night as we approached Saint Louis. It’s entrance is near the drive-inn we saw last night.
At the entrance is one of those very cool Illinois Route 66 kiosks. To think people used to drive across the Mississippi River on this bridge. It is barely 2 lanes wide. At today’s highway speeds it is no surprise that it is closed to traffic. Make sure you read the kiosk.
Walking the Bridge
I started across the bridge committed to reach the other end… and then return. Little did I realize how long the bridge is. As a result, I began to worry they gates would be closed before we made it back.
A couple of power-walkers were on the bridge. Being locals I thought they could tell me what the buildings in the middle of the river are. They were clueless.
It turns out the buildings are water intake stations. It is interesting these are place in such shallow waters. The “chain of rocks” describes the rocky shoal that makes the river difficult to navigate. i.e. shallow waters.
The bridge was built in 1929 as a toll bridge. However, today there is no charge to access the bridge. It is a park-like setting on the Illinois side.
About 1/2 way across the bridge is a fitting tribute to Route 66.
The bridge has a shady reputation. I noticed a plaque with the names of two sisters with the same death date. I wondered, “Hmmm, did they commit suicide together?” If so, how sad.
Well, the story is sad. They didn’t take their own lives, but were murdered on the bridge. On the morning of April 5, 1981, 20-year-old Julie Kerry and 19-year-old Robin Kerry were murdered by Martin Gray. The story is sketchy, but the girls were thrown from the bridge.
During that night, Gray and his friends were up to no good. He claims he went to the bridge to smoke pot, and the girls slipped off the bridge in an attempt to avoid his sexual advances. The two girls were there with a cousin. According to police, the three were forced down a manhole to one of the concrete piers. The girls were raped, and then pushed and their cousin, Thomas Cummins, was instructed/forced to jump.
It is safer these days. Schedule for demolition, it became a hangout for derelicts. Today it is closed after dark, and many people walk it. I wouldn’t let the tragedy of the Kerry girls and Thomas Cummings detour you from making the walk.
While crossing the bridge we met a few joggers, cyclists, and a mom with her kids and one of their friends. We asked for a picture. She told us a little about herself and living near Saint Louis.
On the Missouri side is an old rest stop building. The parking lot is closed and I understand it is a high auto break-in area. As a result you should park in Illinois!