Saturday, January 01, 2005

Whitewater on the Mississippi

The old Chain of Rocks Bridge spans the Mississippi River in north St. Louis. Once part of the legendary Route 66, which ran from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif., the bridge is now open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. At its peak, a hundred or more feet above the river, the bridge overlooks its namesake, the "chain of rocks" that stretches across the mile-wide stream. At this point, the river drops approximately three feet, creating a constantly churning swell of whitewater that inhibits commercial navigation. Barges must use the nearby shipping canal to cimcumvent the natural impediment, leaving this portion of river free of any large vessels. The last lock and dam on the river is located along the canal. From Chain of Rocks to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi runs free. Water rushing over the rocks sound like an uninterrupted ocean tide, as sea gulls soar above.