The first time someone told us we could "walk all the way to Illinois on the chain of rocks," we were astounded. Across the Mississippi! On foot! Then they said we could bike across, too! It finally dawned on us that this particular chain of rocks is a bridge. And what a cool bridge it is! The Chain of Rocks Bridge was built in 1929 as part of Route 66. In those days motorists paid five cents to cross the two-lane span. Closed to automobiles since 1968, the mile-long stretch of American history decayed until 1998, when the good folks at Trailnet, Inc. began a $4 million-plus refurbishment. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the bridge is decked out with original Route 66 paraphernalia and a series of interpretive signs, not to mention Kansas City artist James Woodfill's permanent installation, Ultragate
. It's also the only spot (besides a boat) from which you can ogle the elaborate twin Victorian water intakes (complete with whimsical "follies" that disguise them as a miniature castle and mansion) built by the St. Louis Water Works. The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge connects the St. Louis Riverfront Trail with the MCT Confluence Trail and is open from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. Access is from Riverview Drive just south of I-270 in Missouri (there's a parking attendant and a $3 charge) and on the Illinois side from West Chain of Rocks Road in Granite City (parking is free).