Gateway Arch National Park

Good morning, my friends. What a fabulous day we had yesterday! Sit back, and I'll tell you all about it. There were a couple of different ways to get to the national park from where we're staying. After studying the different ways, we decided to use the shuttle provided by the RV park. They already had some folks going over at 10:00 a.m., and so we decided to go along with them. 

Our boat tour would board at 1:15 p.m. In the meantime, we could kill time seeing the arch and the museum, and then getting some lunch. 

It was as exciting to see the Gateway Arch as it was seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time. We wasted no time taking the obligatory selfie. #ihateselfies

How many different angles do you think I can find for pictures of the Arch?

Turning directly around, we could see the Old Courthouse. It was closed for renovation, and so we didn't go in. The famous Dred Scott case was heard here. 

The Arch was only part of the draw here. The park and surrounding grounds are lovely. Here's a map. Many of the signs were faded out by the sun, and they were a little hard to read. I'm hoping you'll be able to get a sense of the place.

We didn't see many blooming things, but as we started our walk, I noticed these magnolia blossoms still in bud. None were open that I could see.

Here's another angle.

And another. It's hard not to look up and to be inspired to take another photo.

Here's one with Mike for scale.

Okay, so let's just go for a little walk. We started out walking north. There are ponds on both the north and south sides.

We strolled along this lovely tree-lined walkway.

Rounding the bend and moving closer to the Mississippi River. Looking left, it looked like this:

Looking right, it looked like this:

There it is again.

This sign discusses how the grounds were designed to incorporate the shape.

Historically, St. Louis was considered the gateway to the west. It was an important port city along the Mississippi River.

All kinds of "cargo" passed through here.

On the river, we could see where the riverboats were docked, and that's where we'll board our boat in a little while.

Looking back, this is the St. Louis skyline.

The museum was wonderful. We had to pass through airport-style security, although Mike noted we didn't have to remove our shoes. St. Louis was founded by French fur traders. Here's a little about the Chouteau family.

In 1849, the city was nearly destroyed by fire.

We saw this in the museum. I did a little sleuthing about the "Cross of Lorraine" and learned that it is a symbol of hope and faith in victory. It is one of the most popular French emblems. You can read more about it right here.

This caught my eye because I thought it resembled the middle flag flying near the river. Now, I realize it isn't the Lorraine cross at all. Rather, it is the fleur de lis. You can read more about that flag at the link I've given you.

It turns out to be a religious symbol and a religious flag. And walking just a little way further, we noticed the Old Cathedral. It was the first church built west of the Mississippi.

Here is the dedication plaque for the Gateway Arch.

Inside the museum, this map of rivers and trails covered the foyer. The yellow circle represents the City of St. Louis.

The city sits at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers...just one more reason it was such an important port city. The Missouri comes in from the right where I've indicated with a red line. The Mississippi River comes in from the north and flowing south where I've marked the green line.

And you might remember our trip from last year when we visited the Three Forks area of Montana. In the image below, I've cropped out and marked the "three forks" area where the Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson Rivers come together, and then flow into the Missouri.

Here's a picture I took as we stood there:

Inside the museum, this screen was playing a loop of video that purported to take us on a tour of St. Louis as it looked in 1797.

Beside it was this model of a Creole House.

Stepping to the right side, it looked like this inside:

I tried to keep my shutter finger in check as we went through the museum. I couldn't resist this one of the buttons and beads. See how the design on that "roll" matches the designs of the buttons on either side? It was apparently cut cross-wise and then used to make buttons and beads. I couldn't find anything that explained it very well, but you can draw your own conclusions about it.

Some of the informational signs were helpful and interesting as they explained St. Louis's history and importance to westward expansion.

Yeah...and why doesn't this surprise me?

The sign accompanying this stagecoach mentioned that a letter can reach San Francisco from St. Louis in 24 hours nowadays. Back then, it took 25 days. The Butterfield Overland Mail (officially the Overland Mail Company) was a stagecoach service in the United States operating from 1858 to 1861. It carried passengers and U.S. Mail from two eastern termini, Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri, to San Francisco, California.

I don't claim to have an understanding of this geometry (trigonometry?), but I'm posting the picture for any of you who can understand it.

This sign discusses the engineering and design. We sucked in our breath at the images of men high above ground constructing the arch. They weren't wearing helmets or safety harnesses of any kind. The Occupational Safety and Health Act wasn't passed until December 29, 1970, and it wasn't enacted until April 28, 1971. In its first half century, OSHA has helped transform America's workplaces in ways that have significantly reduced workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. The Arch was built in the mid-60's, and so nobody cared about safety back then.

Several signs discussed the shape of the arch. If you suspend a chain from two points, it will make the same curve.

This is a miniature demonstration of the workings of the tram cars that carry passengers to the top.

Here's how the look close-up.

Going up didn't interest us, and so we skipped that part. Instead, we decided to take a riverboat cruise along the St. Louis waterfront. At 1:15 p.m., we boarded the Tom Sawyer for a one-hour tour.

As we sat waiting to cast off, I snapped this picture looking overhead from where I sat.

The tour was as much a tour of St. Louis's bridges as anything else. This structure is the Union Electric Company building. Wikipedia tells us that the company's first incarnation, the Union Company, was organized in 1902. Two years later, the renamed Union Electric Company built this 36 megawatt coal-fired plant to provide steam heat to downtown St. Louis. For years, the plant was the city's main source of electricity. It powered The Palace of Electricity's electric lights at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. The plant was converted to oil in 1972 and from oil to natural gas in 1996. Today, the plant functions as a district steam plant for the city of St. Louis.

It was hard to get good pictures of the bridges. For one thing, multiple bridges are hard to distinguish as separate structures in the two dimensions of photos. Here, the bridge in front is the Martin Luther King Bridge (formerly known as the Veterans Bridge). It is a cantilever truss bridge spanning about 4,000 feet (1,200 m) in total length across the river. Opened in 1951, the bridge serves as traffic relief connecting the concurrent freeways of Interstate 55, Interstate 64, and U.S. Route 40 with the downtown streets of St. Louis. It was renamed for King in 1968 after the national civil rights leader was assassinated that year.

Below is the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, known as the New Mississippi River Bridge until its formal naming in 2013. It is informally known as the "Stan Span." It was built between April 19, 2010, and July, 2013. It opened on February 9, 2014. The cable-stayed bridge has a main span of 1,500 feet (460 m).

Here's a different angle.

We have a similar bridge in Portland, Oregon. This is the Tillicum Crossing over the Willamette River in Oregon.

We watched as road salt was unloaded off a barge. It's always impressive to me how one small human can operate such a large piece of machinery.

My pictures are a little out of order here. This one was taken after we turned from south back to north and headed back to the dock. The bridge below is the MacArthur Bridge. It's a truss bridge originally called the "St. Louis Municipal Bridge." It was known popularly as the "Free Bridge" due to the original lack of tolls. Tolls were added for auto traffic beginning in 1932. In 1942, the bridge was renamed for Douglas MacArthur. 

The bridge was constructed to break the monopoly of the Terminal Railroad Association, that controlled two other bridges in St. Louis and charged what were viewed as unreasonable tolls. Upon completion, the structure was the largest double-deck steel bridge in the world. In 1981, the bridge was closed to vehicles because of pavement deterioration and the eastern ramp approaches were torn out. The bridge is now in use only by railroads. The unused vehicle deck has been removed.

This next image was taken as we headed south. It's the same bridge, but I wanted you to see how it extends on the Illinois side. The length of the bridge is over 18,000 feet all tolled. We're told that around 40 trains cross the bridge each day.

Here we watched as a grain crop was loaded onto a barge. You can see that the far end is deeper in the water. It was explained to us that barges are loaded from one end to the other. If they were loaded in the middle first, it would put too much stress (weight) on the hull and possibly crack it, causing the barge to sink.

This is the Eads Bridge. (Try to ignore the trusses from the MLK bridge in the background). The Eads Bridge was built in 1874, and so it celebrates its 150th birthday this year. The Eads Bridge is a combined road and railway bridge. It was named for its designer and builder, James Buchanan Eads. Work on the bridge began in 1867. It was the first bridge across the Mississippi south of the Missouri River. Earlier bridges were located north of the Missouri, where the Mississippi is smaller. None of the earlier bridges survive, which means that the Eads Bridge is also the oldest bridge on the river.

In that time, no improvements have been made. It has stood the test of time through regular maintenance only. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark. As of April 2014, it carries about 8,100 vehicles daily, down 3,000 since the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge opened in February 2014. A track was added under the bridge to accommodate St. Louis's light rail system, Metrolink. You can see a train crossing under in the image below.

The numbers on that support are to indicate the height limits for ships passing under the bridge. As the level of the river rises and falls, clearance under the bridge changes too.

Here are a couple of tugboats pushing barges along the river. Think about the catastrophe in Baltimore several weeks back. The bridge was hit by a load of 15 barges, and so you can imagine the weight and force that caused the bridge collapse.

Here's yet another picture of the arch, shining in the afternoon sun. It looks different from different angles at at different times of the day.

This is St. Louis's shipwreck. It's the USS Inaugural, a decommissioned World War II minesweeper. It served as a museum from1968-1993. Then, a storm caused it to break loose from its moorings, dragged it down river, and sank it. We were told there have been three unsuccessful attempts to raise it.

As we sidled up to the dock at the end of our tour, I took this picture of a similar boat. This one is the "Becky Thatcher."

While we waited for our shuttle driver, I noticed this gauge showing different flood stages of the river. There is a levee and seawall that protect the city up to 50 feet of flood stage. The higher marking here is from 1947. The lower marking was from 1993. 

Flooding during the winter, spring, and summer of 2019 caused at least 12 deaths and economic losses in 19 states totaling in excess of $20 billion. Estimated damages in the Midwestern United States alone had reached $12.5 billion by April 2019. Flood damages totaling $6.2 billion were reported in the 11 states bordering the Mississippi River. In addition to property and crop losses and infrastructure damages, commercial navigation on the Mississippi River was interrupted repeatedly by high currents, low bridge clearances, and closed locks. This delayed shipments of agricultural commodities, adding to the economic stress of crop losses caused by flooding. As of late April 2019, shipments of corn to export terminals in Louisiana were 31% lower than in same period in 2018.

Also, I took a picture of the Mississippi River while I stood here and engaged in some "citizen scientist" texting with some unknown texter at the other end of the line.

Helicopter tours were available. They lasted about 10 minutes by our observation, and they were very expensive.

We also sat and watched as this Cinderella-style carriage passed by.

As we rode back to the RV park, we passed by Busch Stadium, home of St. Louis's beloved Cardinal baseball team. 

And you know it was a banner day because I found a shot glass.

And a refrigerator magnet.

Have you been keeping count? These are all the magnets I've collected on this trip so far.

I crossed out those ones in the upper left. They live in the RV all the time. They were acquired on other trips.

Okay, so that was our trip to St. Louis. It was even better than expected. Don't be deterred by naysayers who tell you the Gateway Arch is overrated. It is well worth a visit if you've never seen it before. Another bucket list item checked off.

Today we'll head to Eddyville, Kentucky. It will be another new state for the side of the RV. We'll have four days in Eddyville while we attend the quilt show in Paducah. We also have tickets to see the museum. I've wanted to attend the Paducah quilt show since I learned to quilt in 2008, and I'm pretty excited for this opportunity. 

And with that, I'll leave you to your day. It's time to get rolling.


Barbara said...

We build too many walls and not enough bridges. ~ Isaac Newton

Kate said...

You definitely made the most of your visit to the arch. Sounds like you had a wonderful day. Hope you enjoy the quilt show.

Cathy Smith said...

Many years ago in a previous life, I flew small aircraft and worked at the airport. Four of us flew a Cessna 172 from Van Nuys, CA to somewhere in Pennsylvania to bring back another small plane. One of our stops was at Spirit airport in St. Louis (great restaurant there!). I remember being SO excited seeing the arch from the air. The view is burned into my brain all these years (40+) later. It really is impressive!

Magpie's Mumblings said...

That certainly is an impressive arch! Needless to say I wouldn't be getting in one of those 'lifts' to take a ride - yicks. Nor would I be taking part in one of the helicopter tours either. I would like a ride in the cinderella carriage though.

Joye with an e said...

This post brought back memories of St. Louis and the arch. I first visited in September 1985 to attend a week-long marketing school and I returned in September the next year for the second part of the school. The first year I explored the arch park on my own and even ventured up to the top in those buckets. I was 29 years old and while at the top of the arch a "kid" about 21 made a pass at me, even though I was wearing a wedding ring. I was amused and vaguely flattered at the attention. The view from the top was similar to the view from the Washington Monument (think small windows). The rest of the school included making friends with colleagues (we all worked in credit union marketing). There was a tour of the Anheuser Busch Budweiser Brewery, with tasting! We also visited the zoo and a shopping center that used to house Union Station. Almost everything was within walking distance of our hotel. There was a restaurant and bar district near the waterfront where we went almost every evening. Lots of fun places. We even went to a 5-star restaurant called Tony's that was a favorite of the rich and famous (although we didn't see any celebrities except those in photos on the walls). St. Louis was one of my favorite cities I visited while working (I retired in 2011).Thanks for sharing how it is today! I've yet to visit Paducah so I'm envious of your upcoming visit!

Lyndsey said...

i really liked the arch and the different light effects you got as you took photos from different angles. Your day was very interesting and I'm really glad you shared it. I loved the trip under the bridges. I find bridges fascinating. So many different designs and styles.

Patricia said...

i have so enjoyed your trip across the country. it's like you are giving us a history lesson, a lesson in geography, a lesson in the history of our country. it is fabulous! i love it. i also love all the photography. you have taken me to places i can only dream of going. health prevents me. thank you doesn't seem to say enough. patti in florida

MissPat said...

Finally, someplace I've actually been. I've been to the Arch, Union Station and attended a Cardinals game. I've also been to Paducah and visited the Quilt Museum, but not during the Quilt Show, alas.
I chuckled about the mail reaching San Francisco from St Louis in a day. I don't think that's true any more unless you sent it Express Mail.
Enjoy Paducah. There are some wonderful murals painted on the flood wall (or there were when I was there many years ago).

QuiltGranma said...

The only reason I am familiar with Stan Musel is because I love the movie with John Wayne, Donnavan's Reef. The little boy in the movie was a Stan the Man fan.

Christine said...

Superb visit. That arch is really something. I won't say I understand everything but the thinking behind the build..... Angles, heights etc..... Always amazes me. Thank you for including information boards.
Just LOVE that fridge magnet

Sara said...

The Paducah quilt show - I'm envious. It's on my bucket list. But I'm sure you'll share pictures so your readers can enjoy it through your eyes.

karen said...

Thank you for the St Louis trip , photos and commentary. We've visited St Louis several times. Your St Louis Arch is a Beautiful site.. ours was always construction , dirty and angry.
One thing we always visited was the AB factory and brewery. First time was the best. Got to see the horses and see their lavish lifestyle. How beer is made was very interesting. It's way too commercial now. It's all about just drinking beer. How boring.
Have been to Paduacha, but never enough time for the museum or quilt show.
I will be holding your hand while at the quilt show. Squeee!

karen said...

Also St. Louis is a fantastic place to eat. Oh, my! So many good places to eat.
When we go ANYWHERE, my husband plans the route by the good,best, places to eat. The local, mom and pop places. Never the every day chain restaurants.

piecefulwendy said...

Looks like a fun place to explore. I'd like to take that walk along the tree-lined path!

Anne-Marie said...

We took the kids to the Arch around 10 years ago. We did go in the little pods up to the top. I am claustrophobic, so the journey up and down wasn't fun for me, but the kids loved it, so I guess it was worth it. :) Have fun in Paducah. I've been a good handful of times, but haven't made it to the museum yet.

Maggie said...

Thank you for your blog, Barbara. I have enjoyed reading every post for the last few years.
(I read blogs on a feed reader so am always weeks behind people’s posts.)
I was finally moved to comment as I was in St Louis last week and visited Paducah as well. I’m an Australian quilter with a son living in Atlanta, Georgia. We visit him regularly and on this visit, I took myself to St Louis to spend time with a friend. This kind friend took me to Paducah to the museum as well, a full day trip from St Louis. We went to the Arch, and I was blown away by how different it looks from various angles. So worth visiting although we didn’t go up to the top.
I loved the museum at Paducah and one day, will time my visit to my son to coincide with the Paducah show. I timed our 2019 visit so I could get to the big show at Houston.
Keep on blogging, Barbara. You have a real gift for writing.