Cape Mississippi River Bridge RIP (Rest in Pieces)

The old Cape Mississippi River Traffic Bridge was an adolescent adrenaline rush, a white-knuckled journey of fear and angst; it was an inconvenience, it was the site of personal and family tragedy. It also opened up Cape Girardeau to Illinois and points east when it became the first bridge across the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Memphis.

It was a part of our lives, indicated by the number and variety of the comments left on yesterday’s post about a crash on the bridge.  The span, which was 4,744 feet, 4 inches long, opened to traffic August 22, 1928. A contractor used explosives to drop the bridge into the Mississippi August 3, 2004.

The approach to nowhere

The steelwork has all been removed, but they were still working on removing the bridge piers when I shot this photo from the Illinois side of the river in October of 2004.

Piers the last to go

The massive piers that held the bridge up were the last parts to be demolished. This photo shows the flood gates that are closed, blocking north and south rail traffic when the river gets high. I prowled around under the bridge here and picked up a few souvenir pieces of steel. The Missourian said 160,000 rivets were used in building the bridge.

Missouri approach turned into scenic viewing area

The decorative archway over the Cape approach to the bridge has been preserved and a portion of the span has been turned into an attractive viewing area. I wish that the whole bridge could have been preserved for bicycles and pedestrians like the Chain of Rocks Bridge north of St. Louis, but the Coast Guard considered having two bridges that close together to be a navigation hazard.

Mississippi River Traffic Bridge Photo Gallery

Here is a collection of photos taken of the bridge’s last days in the fall of 2004. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

15 Replies to “Cape Mississippi River Bridge RIP (Rest in Pieces)”

  1. IN IMAGE 9 WHAT IS THE LARGE BEIGE BUILDING NEXT TO THE CONCRETE PIER? ALSO, WONDER IF THEY RECYCLED ALL THAT OLD STEEL? SURE WAS A LOT OF WASTE IF THEY DIDN’T!

  2. THE LARGE BEIGE BUIDLING JUDI IS REFERRING TO IS A 4 FAMILY CONDO. IT WAS BUILT BY JOHN BOARDMAN AND WAS ONE OF THE LAST
    THINGS HE WAS WORKING ON BEFORE HE DIED.

    1. David,

      As far as I know, it was all hauled off as scrap.

      If I had been a service club or one of the Cape booster organizations, I’d have cadged an I-beam from the contractor, had it cut into tiny pieces, mounted them onto commemorative plaques and sold them as fundraisers.

      It would have been a great paperweight.

      Maybe somebody did that, but I haven’t heard of it.

      I had to get my piece the hard way: by scavenging around under the bridge approach.

  3. I have to do some bragging this morning. When I looked at the stats, I saw that CapeCentralHigh had logged 10,000 page visits over the past 30 days. That amounted to 22,146 pageviews (since many folks read more than one page), with an average time on site of just under four minutes.

    Those are impressive stats for a site that’s not even a year old, and deals with a tiny window of time in a small town.

    Thanks for visiting and even more thanks for participating. Your comments are frequently more interesting and enlightening than my posts.

  4. Ken the page hits/time are a reflection of the quality of content and the that is a reflection of the author. Those of us in the internet biz would give you a A+ for your efforts and results!

  5. Does anyone have any history of the bridge? Wasn’t it built by selling bonds in Cape – ever paid off? Also wasn’t it a toll bridge at one time?
    ps – Ken, kuddos on an excellent site.

  6. These pictures are wonderful! I grew up in Sikeston and crossed this bridge many times to buy lottery tickets in Illinois. I was a little sad when I heard that they were tearing it down (right now I live in Maryland). My mother-in-law messaged me pictures of the new bridge when it was opened, but these pictures take me back to the days when (sitting in the backseat) we used to hold our breath and keep our feet off the floor when we crossed the bridge…ah the memories! Thank you!!

  7. Wow, I read this blog post when Ken posted it, but it wasn’t until revisiting it today that I recognized that the construction on the bridge was started when my mother was born, and the final demolition of the bridge happened when my mother died.

  8. I bought a 1933 Plymouth with 24,000 miles on it right after I got out of the Service in 1971 and it had a Cape bridge sticker on the drivers side window.

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