Iconic Bridges Along Route 66 Reveal Stories of Engineering Marvels

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Hitting the road on Route 66 takes you through a slice of classic America, and along the way, you'll stumble upon some architectural wonders — the bridges.

These iconic bridges are not just functional infrastructures but historical landmarks teeming with tales of human ingenuity.

The engineering behind these bridges is impressive, with each offering an Instagram-worthy backdrop and a testament to early 20th-century innovation.

1. The Old Chain Of Rocks Bridge

The old Chain of Rocks Bridge over Mississippi River near St Louis - aerial view from Illinois shore

Have you heard about the Chain of Rocks Bridge? Built in 1929, this bridge uniquely features a 22-degree bend in the middle. It's a feature that makes the crossing unforgettable.

The bridge links Illinois and Missouri, stretching over one mile long and towering 60 feet above the Mississippi River.

Beyond just connecting two states, the bridge's significance is its place on the National Register of Historic Places; it represents a rich era of American travel.

Often remembered for its quirky turn, the Chain of Rocks Bridge was an engineering solution to a geographic challenge during construction.

Not only is it a marvel to behold, but it's also a photographer's dream. The views from the bridge are stunning, especially during sunrise and sunset.

Today, this bridge no longer carries vehicles but is open to pedestrians and cyclists, making it a serene spot to take in the vistas of the river.

2. Old Trails Bridge

Old Trails Arch Bridge, Colorado River, Topock, AZ

The Old Trails Bridge was built in 1916 and boasts a remarkable 600-foot steel arch. Originally, it carried travelers over the Colorado River and was a key component of early Route 66.

Although it no longer carries cars, the architecture holds stories of the past. You can find this engineering marvel in Topock, Arizona, a scenic spot where the desert meets the river.

The Old Trails Bridge served until 1948, when the Red Rock Bridge replaced it. However, its legacy endures, and its frame continues to echo the ingenuity of an evolving nation.

Spanning an impressive 800 feet total length, it connected two sides of a river, marking the journey west for many travelers.

3. Colorado Street Bridge

Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena at golden hour

You'll find the iconic Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, a historical gem that stands out for its distinctive Beaux Arts architecture, with arches that speak volumes of its early 20th-century origins.

Built in 1913 and towering at 150 feet above the Arroyo Seco, this bridge is known for its grandeur and was once the highest concrete bridge in the world.

The engineers from Waddell & Harrington designed it to blend aesthetics with functionality, creating a structure that carried traffic and captured the imagination.

With its total cost at $191,000, equivalent to over $5 million today, the Colorado Street Bridge marked a significant investment in infrastructure that has stood the test of time.

Its majestic arches have made it a popular location for filming and photography, offering a picturesque vista that captures the essence of Pasadena’s landscape.

The bridge has more than engineering to its story; it has been designated as part of the National Register of Historic Places for its cultural significance.

4. MacArthur Bridge

Sunny view of the MacArthur Bridge

Spanning the Mississippi River, this bridge was vital to Route 66 from 1929 to 1955. The MacArthur Bridge's dynamic story reflects the nation's roadways and infrastructure growth.

Due to its importance, the structure has made it through many years, but in 1981, the bridge was closed to vehicles due to pavement issues. Despite closing for vehicular passage, the bridge remained an endearing landmark.

Today, you can still marvel at its architecture and picture the thousands of travelers and commuters who once used it.

5. Martin Luther King Bridge

Gateway arch, eads bridge, and martin luther king bridge as seen from the Mississippi River, in st louis, missouri

The Martin Luther King Bridge is a spectacle with a cantilever truss design that defines its structure, connecting St. Louis, Missouri, with East St. Louis in Illinois.

This bridge, with a total length of about 4,000 feet, was opened to the public in 1951. Its impressive length has since been critical in traffic management, linking multiple interstates, including Interstate 55, Interstate 64, and U.S. Route 40.

Your camera will love the views from this bridge, set against the backdrop of the bustling cityscape of St. Louis and the serene flow of the Mississippi.

Originally called the Veterans Bridge, its name was changed to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

6. McKinley Bridge

Aerial image of downtown St Louis from the McKinley Bridge

Built in 1910, this bridge spans the mighty Mississippi River, linking St. Louis, Missouri, with Venice, Illinois. Renowned for its significant length and engineering prowess, it stands as a testament to early 20th-century engineering.

After years of service, the McKinley Bridge closed in 2001, but not for long—it saw new life as a pedestrian and cyclist path in 2007, boasting an impressive grand re-opening celebration.

Its trusses are a work of art, painting the sky with lines of steel that tell tales of innovation and connection.

7. New Chain Of Rocks Bridge

new Chain of Rocks Bridge over the Mississippi River near St Louis - aerial view at sunrise

The New Chain of Rocks Bridge, part of Interstate 270, is an engineering marvel stretching impressively across the Mississippi River, connecting Madison, Illinois, to St. Louis, Missouri.

This significant structure has replaced the original Chain of Rocks Bridge, known for its distinctive 22-degree bend.

Today, the new bridge plays an important role in facilitating the smooth flow of traffic and commerce between the two states, helping streamline transportation and offering breathtaking views of the river below.

8. Poplar Street Bridge

The Poplar Street Bridge, officially named the Congressman William L. Clay Sr. Bridge, connects St. Louis, Missouri, to East St. Louis, Illinois, over the mighty Mississippi River.

At 647 feet long and situated just south of the iconic Gateway Arch, the Poplar Street Bridge makes for a stunning photo opp. You'll marvel at how it spans the river, a practical piece of art against the backdrop of the city's skyline.

What's truly fascinating is the orthotropic bridge design, stemming from a German invention, which consists of a steel road deck topped with asphalt. This smart method makes the bridge lighter than concrete, helping it last longer and work better.

9. Querino Canyon Bridge

Querino Canyon Bridge in Houck, AZ
Querino Canyon Bridge in Houck, AZ | Photo by Rhys Martin

Constructed in 1929, the Querino Canyon Bridge was part of a significant Route 66 upgrade, which helped connect Lupton to Sanders by adding more bridges and fixing the roads.

Perched over a stunning canyon near Houck, the bridge is 77 feet long and perfectly showcases early highway truss design.

This bridge doesn't just represent a crucial link in America's past; its timeless design has also made it a favorite photo stop for Route 66 travelers. The awe-inspiring backdrop of rugged terrain and vast Arizona skies offers an Instagram-worthy moment you won’t miss.

10. Rainbow Bridge

Close up of this Rainbow Curve Bridge Constructed in 1923 that is the only remaining Marsh Arch Bridge on Route 66

Perched over Brush Creek in Kansas, this bridge is the last along the legendary roadway and speaks volumes of a bygone era.

Built in 1923, the Marsh arch design of this bridge is unique; with just one look, you'll appreciate why it's a must-see spot — you're witnessing a piece of history carrying travelers for nearly a century.

Despite constructing a newer bridge nearby in 1992, this historical structure is still accessible to traffic. It's now set for traffic to go only one way to keep it safe and sound, ensuring that your photograph captures the grandeur of this enduring landmark.

11. Red Rock Bridge

You'll find the Red Rock Bridge perched over the Colorado River. This historic structure once proudly carried the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad.

Built back in 1890, it replaced a less sturdy wooden bridge prone to damage from spring floods. It was a railroad lifeline across the river until 1945, when a newer bridge took over.

However, its legacy endures, symbolizing the era of railroad dominance and the transformative impact of rail transport on the American landscape.

Today, the Red Rock Bridge stands as a historic monument, inviting exploration and appreciation for its contribution to the development of the nation's transportation infrastructure and its role in bridging the vast expanses of the American West.

12. Rio Puerco Bridge

Rio Puerco Bridge, truss bridge located on historic Route 66 built in 1933

Stretching 250 feet across the Rio Puerco, this bridge was one of New Mexico's longest single-span steel truss bridges. Each of the bridge's ten panels measures 25 feet, with the top cord angled distinctively—a trait that makes the design stand out.

If you're seeking an Instagram-worthy shot, the Rio Puerco Bridge won't disappoint. With the deep blue New Mexico sky as your backdrop, the rusted steel beams conjure images of a bygone era.

The concrete deck lined with asphalt, once a platform for myriad road trippers, now serves as a walkway for visitors. You can stroll across its 25-foot width, touching the same materials that have endured the Southwest's harsh elements for decades.

13. Tom Kight Bridge

This engineering gem was constructed in the 1950s. Interestingly, it was part of a one-way couplet with an older truss bridge, which carried westbound traffic.

After the older bridge was replaced, the truss spans found a new purpose as decorative pieces in nearby areas.

When you stand on the Tom Kight Jr. Bridge, think of the countless stories it holds, the people it has seen, and the changes in engineering and travel it reflects.

14. 11th Street Bridge

The historic 11th Street Bridge, known as the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge.

Built by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company in 1917 for $180,000, it's a classic example of early 20th-century design and construction methods.

The bridge, boasting 18 spans set firmly on piers anchored in bedrock, is a testament to the durable infrastructure of its era.

Engineers from Harrington, Howard, and Ash crafted this enduring structure, which has since been celebrated as a piece of Route 66 heritage.

Functionally replaced by the I-244 bridges, the 11th Street Bridge now serves as a historical landmark, highlighting the ambition and progress of early American roadways.

In 2004, honoring its significance to the Route 66 legacy, the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge was renamed.

Today, you can admire its art deco arches and the intricate railings that still stand proudly as silent witnesses to the countless stories of those who once traveled the Mother Road.

15. Devil’s Elbow Bridge

Sunlight through the trees at Devil's Elbow, a steel bridge constructed in 1923, on Route 66.

The bridge spans the Big Piney River, renowned for adding aesthetic and historic value to the area. Its construction facilitated traffic on the Ozark Trails and later became a key part of Route 66 from 1926 to 1943.

The name "Devil’s Elbow" comes from the sharp bend in the river, creating a distinctive "elbow" shape that can catch your eye.

This unique feature has made the bridge and its surrounding location a favorite for photographers and history buffs.

What makes it particularly special? The steel truss design has withstood the test of time, allowing visitors to step back into an era where each bridge was a landmark in its own right.

16. Gasconade River Bridge

Gasconade River Bridge, Route 66 Missouri

Constructed between 1922 and 1924, this bridge is a mix of steel truss designs. You'll find the beauty of two steel Parker through trusses and a single steel Pratt through truss, with a charming pony truss to complete the look.

Despite its utilitarian purpose, the bridge has an undeniable appeal that makes it perfect for a snapshot of history—literally.

After years of wear and potential demolition threats, the Gasconade River Bridge is now saved, securing a slice of Missourian and American history.

Thanks to tireless preservation efforts, the bridge remains a testament to past engineering marvels and a permanent waypoint for Route 66 enthusiasts.

Have You Captured the Timeless Essence of Route 66's Iconic Bridges? Let Us Know About Your Story Below!

The allure of these bridges isn't just their size or design; it's the stories they carry and the Instagram-worthy moments they offer.

As you travel and capture these moments, why not enhance the experience with the perfect soundtrack? We have some great songs to play while driving along the route here.

And while you're discovering these iconic bridges, how about exploring the unique and quirky side of Route 66? Here are some can’t-miss roadside attractions to add to your list.

So, did you get some great shots of Route 66's iconic bridges? We'd love to see them. Share your experiences and photos below!

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