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Times Beach - Route 66 State Park

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Times Beach, Missouri

Former town contaminated with dioxin, evacuated, cleaned up and now a State Park

Now it is Route 66 State Park

Times Beach was a once bustling commnity but after being contaminated with dioxin in the 1970s, it was evacuated, demolished and decontaminated in the 1990s. Today it is the Route 66 State Park with its 1935 Steiny’s Inn (Bridghead Inn), a 1932 section of the Mother Road and the now closed Historical Meramec River US 66 Bridge.

Formerly the town of Times Beach, now Route 66 State Park MO

Route 66, the "1926-32" Alignment into St. Louis

< West     Gray Summit ¦ Wildwood ¦ Ballwin ¦ Manchester ¦ Des Peres ¦ Kirkwood ¦ Rock Hill ¦ Brentwood ¦ Maplewood     East >

Bypass Route 66 Around St. Louis
< Southwest     Kirkwood ¦ Ladue ¦ Creve Coeur ¦ Maryland Heights ¦ Bridgeton ¦ Hazelwood     Northeast >

The Main Alignment of Route 66 near former Times Beach

< Head West
Pacific ¦ Allenton ¦ Eureka

Head East >
Fenton ¦ Sunset Hills ¦ Crestwood

 

About Times Beach Missouri

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 456 ft (139 m). Population 0 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

Times Beach was a town but due to a chemical contamination with dioxin, it was evacuated in 1983, quarantined and later disincorporated. The buildings were razed and the former townsite after being decontaminated became the Route 66 State Park. It is located in St. Louis County, on the 1932-1977 alignment of Route 66 in the central-eastern Missouri. (Map of Route 66 State Park, formerly Times Beach).

1954 USGS map, showing the town of Times Beach and Route 66, Missouri

1954 USGS map of Times Beach and Route 66, Missouri
Detail of a 1954 map of Times Beach, Missouri, by the

History of Times Beach

For a detailed history of this region, see our page on the history of neighboring Eureka.

The town was born in 1926 and was a commercial undertaking of the St. Louis Times (that is how it got its name, the "Times" part of it). It sold sections of lots, part of a "New Summer Resort on the Meramec". They cost $67.50 per lot and could be bought at $10 down and a $2.5 monthly installment and the buyer had to also purchase a six month subscription to the newspaper. They were minute lots of 20 by 100 ft (roughly 6 x 30 m).

The lowlying land on the placid Meramec River valley had "A mile of river beach and safe place for the kiddies. Excellent swimming, safe wading for the youngsters, boating and fishing... beaches and wooded parks", which gave the town's name its second part: "Beach".

The Name: Times Beach

The name combined the name of the newspaper that sponsored the promotional land sale "St. Louis Times" and the "Beach" it had along the shore of the Meramec River.

It was located on "good roads" and "little over an hour... from St. Louis". Route 66 did not reach Times Beach at that time; it ran further north, through Manchester, Pond and then to the west in Gray Summit. However it was close to Eureka and the railroad and there was a road linking it with St. Louis.

The area was often flooded -it was on the river's flood plain- so many of the summer homes built there were mounted on stilts. It grew slowly during the Great Depression and in 1932 a new bridge was built across the Meramec (replacing the older 1900 one) and Route 66 was realigned through Times Beach.

During WWII, gasoline rationing made it difficult to commute to the summer bungalows in the area. It survived as a small low-income community with some summer visitors and incorporated in 1954. In 1956 a new bridge was added for the eastbound traffic and later, in the mid 1960s I-44 added a third bridge to carry the westbound lanes, bypassing the town.

Population grew to around 2,000 residents at the time it was contamination with oil tainted with dioxin.

Contamination with Dioxin

The Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Co. Inc. (NEPACCO) manufactured thriclorophenol and, as a byproduct generated dioxin, a highly toxic chemical. They hired IPC, a chemical company to dispose it and IPC in turn sold it to Russell Martin Bliss a waste oil company based in Rosati (Route 66 in Missouri).

Dioxins: toxic chemicals

Dioxins ara a family of chemicals of which around 30 are significantly toxic. They tend to breakdown slowly in the soil (their chorine atoms prevent bacteria from doing so) and UV radiation degrades them very slowly. So they accumulate in animals' fatty tissue: 90% of human exposure comes from food (meat, dairy proudcts, fish and shelfish) and once in your body they remain there for a long time, their half-life is around 10 years.

The 1976 dioxin release from a chemical plant in Seveso Italy affected 37,000 residents and contaminated 5.8 sq.mi. (15 km2).

It produces skin lesions (chloracne), altered liver function and animals exposed to dioxins developed cancer, so it is classed as a "known human carcinogen". Read more at the World Health Organization website.

The dioxin gets into oil used for dust control

Bliss was unaware of the product's toxicity and he got rid of it by mixing it with used car oil and using it in the dust-suppressant service his company provided: he sprayed the oil on sand or dirt surfaces (like roads and arenas) to keep the dust down.

The town of Times Beach had 16.3 mi. of dusty roads and Bliss was hired by the city to spray the roads during the summer of 1972 and 73. He charged 6¢ per gallon of oil.

But something was amiss; animals started to die and children got ill at one of the arenas so the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) investigated in 1971 and found the cause: dioxin. It reported the case to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1975 but due to various reasons action only began in 1982. It was then that Times Beach (which had also been sprayed by Bliss) found out about its contamination. The US government bought the whole town and its residents were evacuated in 1983. It was disincorporated by the state of Missouri shortly after.

Its location on a flood plain meant that the dioxin could spread elsewhere so the state placed an incinerator there in 1995 to deal with the contaminated soil -50% of the state's dioxin was located there. Over the next two years, at a cost of $200 milion, it burned over 265,000 tons of dioxin tainted material from all over Missouri. It closed in 1997.

The Other Contaminated town on Route 66: Picher Oklahoma

Pitcher, now a ghost town in Ontario County, Oklahoma, was contaminated due to the water loaded with toxic heavy metals that leached from the mine tailings that surrounded this former mining town. When the town was also found to be collapsing due to the mine shafts below it, it was evacuated, declared uninhabitable. It was dis-incorporated in 2009 and the municipality was dissolved in 2013. Read all about this here Picher, near Commerce OK and Route 66.

Aftermath for Times Beach

Meramec River Bridge US 66, Missouri

Old Meramec Bridge on Route 66, Times Beach, by Kbh3rd

The 1982 decision by the CDC to publicly recommend that the town be evacuated, meant that 800 families were uprooted and relocated elsewhere. Their homes were demolished in 1992. There has been no evidence that low-level dioxin exposure has caused adverse health effects in the former inhabitants of Times Beach.

The EPA tested the oil at the former townsite (now Route 66 State Park) in June 2012 and concluded that "Soil samples from Route 66 State Park show no significant health risks for park visitors or workers". Some have considered that the evacuation had been an overreaction, but the uncertainties at the time led the authorities to play it safe and protect the residents even if it meant relocating them.

Route 66 State Park is created

The townsite after the massive clean up and fully decontaminated was then handed over to to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' Division of State Parks, and in 1999 it became Route 66 State Park.

There is no lodging at Times Beach, Missouri

Accommodation and hotels near Times Beach & Route 66 State Park

>> Book your accommodation in neighboring: Eureka

More Lodging near Times Beach along Route 66

More motels and Hotels close to Times Beach and Route 66 State Park

Hotels, Westwards in Missouri

Heading East in Missouri, more accommodation

Hotels further East, in Illinois

Book your Route 66 hotel now
Book your Hotel along Route 66

>> Check out the nearby RV campground in neighboring Pacific

Weather in Times Beach

Weather widget for Eureka, the town nearest Plano, 2 mi. to the west

Route 66 and Times Beach, MO
Location of Times Beach on the Old 1932-1977 Route 66 in Missouri

The area where Times Beach stood (now it is Route 66 State Park) has four well marked seasons. It is located in the area where humid continental climate shifts towards a humid subtropical climate, so summers are hot and humid while winters are cold. It gets cold Arctic air and hot damp tropical air from the Gulf of Mexico. Spring is wet and may have extreme weather (tornados, thunderstorms and even winter storms). Fall is sunny and less humid, with mild weather.

The average high in winter (Jan) is a cool 39.9°F (4.4°C) while the average low is a chilly 23.7°F (-4.6°C). The summer (Jul) average high is 89.1°F (31.7°C) and the average low is 71°F (21.7°C).

Rain is on average 41 in. (1.041 mm) with the rainiest months being May through July with over 4.1 in monthly (104 mm). Snow falls between Nov. and Apr., with a total snowfall of 17.8 in. (45 cm). Relative humitiy ranges averages 69.7% and is fairly stable year round.

Tornado risk

Route 66 State Park is located in Missouri's "Tornado Alley" and St. Louis County is struck by some 7 tornados every year.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
 

Getting to Times Beach - Route 66 State Park

You can reach the site of former Times Beach along historic Route 66 or along MO-100, and also via Interstate I-44 that links it with Pacific, St. Clair, Rolla and Springfield, Eureka to the west and with Fenton, Kirkwood and St. Louis in the east. US 63 runs through Rolla to the west and US 50 passes just to the north of the town (with I-44). I-55, I-70 and I-64 go through St. Louis too.

Map of Route 66 in Times Beach

Below is a static , Missouri.

Static Map showing Route 66 alignment through Times Beach, Missouri

Map of Times Beach, Missouri
Map showing Route 66 in Times Beach, Missouri, by
Click on image to see the Google Map.

Map Keys
Pale Blue, east of Times Beach, and west up to Gray Summit, is the 1932 to 1953 Route 66 that bypassed the previous Orange alignment located north of it. It may also mark the current road that you can use to avoid those sections bypassed in 1953 by the Four-Lane Route now buried by the interstate.
Red shows where you must drive on the Interstate as the old segments are cut by it.
Blue shows the original parts of Route 66's 1932 to 1977 roadbed that can still be driven but are not located on the Pale Blue road, they end in dead ends and the Black segments show the orginal but now gone parts of the old road. Check the details provided for each town to learn more.

Alignment of Route 66 in Missouri: Historic U.S. 66 through former Times Beach

Route 66 logo

Route 66 across Missouri

U.S. Route 66 in Missouri is a State Historic Scenic Byway in Missouri and this also includes the old alignment in what used to be the town Times Beach and Saint Louis County, however it is still pending Federal designation as a Byway.

Click on the following link and see our overview of Route 66 across the state of Missouri.

Below you will find full details on Old Route 66 in Times Beach

Sights and Attractions in Times Beach, Missouri

What to Do, Places to See

Route 66 State Park on the Meramec River

Former Times Beach and its Route 66 attractions

The town of Times Beach is gone, it was evacuated after being tainted with dioxin and demolished, its remains were cleaned up, decontaminated and rehabilitated as the Route 66 State Park. Its visitor center is the former Bridghead Inn (Steiny’s Inn) built in 1935 next to the Historical Meramec River US 66 Bridge now closed.

Historic context, the classic Route 66 in Times Beach

Neither the WPA travel guide "Missouri, a guide to the "Show Me" state" published in 1941 or Jack DeVere Rittenhouse in his classic "A Guide Book to Highway 66" published in 1946 mention it. There is no reference to its hotels, motels or local attractions. Which is quite reasonable since it was at that time a summer vacations resort.

Below we give full information on the sights in what is now the Route 66 State Park:

The Route 66 State Park

N. Outer Rd. at I-44 Exit 266.

former Key Cafe, Villa Ridge neon sign

Key Cafe originally at Villa Ridge neon sign; now at Route 66 State Park, Best Western Hotels

The former townsite of Times Beach is now the state park and it includes the "bridghead" on the eastern bank of the Meramec River where the Visitor Center is located.

The park covers 419 acres (170 ha) of land and commemorates U.S. 66, "America's Main Street" and the history of Times Beach.

As the Meramec River US 66 Bridge is permanently closed, to reach the park's western section you must head into Eureka and, from Exit 264, head back towards the river (it is a 3.3 mi. drive from that Exit and this is the Map with directions).

Steiny’s Inn - Bridghead Inn

Visitor Center Route 66 State Park, N. Outer Rd. and Meramec River

The former restaurant and roadhouse that is now the Park's Visitor Center was built in 1935. It was strategically located on the east bank of the Meramec River, along the south side of US 66.

It had a restaurant which catered to those visiting the region or simply driving through. Over the course of the years it changed hands, and name several times. The postcard shows the first of them: Bridghead Inn (1935 - 1946), so surely Rittenhouse drove past it. Then it became Steiny's Inn (1946), again Bridgehead Inn (1972) and finally Galley West (1980). Then the contamination issue arose, the town shut down and business stopped.

The Key from the past

Right beside the Visitor Center, on its north side, is this neon sign once stood at the Site of Key’s Twin Bridge Gas Station and Cafe. It is a distinctive key-shaped neon sign that was saved from the now demolished cafe and donated by the Key family to the Route 66 State Park. It is Here, next to the Park's visitor center, and this is a Street View. It is pictured above.

The Route 66 State Park was created in 1999 and the old inn became its visitor center. It displays a good collection of Route 66 memorabilia, historical artifacts, neon signs and much more. It also exhibits plenty of articles and information on the history of the former town of Times Beach.

Visit the Park's website for more information.

Now it is cut off from the Park it serves because the Meramec River US 66 Bridge is permanently closed.

As the "Then & Now images below show, the place has changed very little since the 1950s when it advertised as being "... located 17 miles west of St. Louis city Limits on Highway 66 overlooking the Meramec River at Times Beach...", it offered Breakfast, Steaks, Chicken and BarBQ Ribs:

1950s Postcard of the Bridghead Inn (Steiny’s Inn) in Route 66 State Park, Missouri

1950s Postcard of the Bridghead Inn (Steiny’s Inn) on Route 66 in Route 66 State Park MO
1950s Postcard of the Bridghead Inn (Steiny’s Inn) on Route 66 in Route 66 State Park, Missouri, by
Click on image for larger sized View

Current view of the Bridghead Inn (Steiny’s Inn) in Route 66 State Park, Missouri

Current view of the Bridghead Inn (Steiny’s Inn) on Route 66 in Route 66 State Park MO
Current view of the Bridghead Inn (Steiny’s Inn) on Route 66 in Route 66 State Park, Missouri, by
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

Just ahead is the historic bridge, with its deck gone (removed in 2012), but still standing proud:

Meramec River US 66 Bridge

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Historic Route 66 and Meramec River

The first bridge here was the Votaw Bridge built in 1900, a steel 10-panel Camelback Pratt Through Truss bridge. In 1933, coinciding with the new alignment of Route 66 between St. Louis and Gray Summit, it was replaced by the "historic" bridge.

Bridge features

It was a three span Warren Deck Truss bridge, 1,009 ft. long (308 m) and 30 ft. wide (10 m). The trusses are triangular beams used to provide support to the bridge. Warren patented a design in 1848 by which the triangles are equilateral. It rested on concrete piers and abutements. The deck with the roadbed was supported by horizontal chords.

Historic Meramec Route 66 Bridge

The historic Meramec River bridge at Times Beach

A new brige is built (1956)

In 1956 a new set of lanes were built for eastbound traffic, and a new bridge was built to the south of the old one, which now carried westbound traffic only. In the late 1960s another set of lanes, now for westbound traffic was added to US-66 ⁄ I-44 to carry the westbound traffic and bypassing the original Route 66 through Times Beach and the old bridge, which remained open to local traffic.

In 1983 the town was evacuated and quarantined for cleanup. The bridge remained in use for that operation and, later, after the Route 66 State Park was created in 1999 it linked the western and eastern parts of the park. On October 29, 2009, the Meramec River U.S. 66 Bridge was closed to all traffic by MoDOT due to safety considerations and in 2012 its deck and roadbed were removed as can be seen in the photo above.

Tours & Itineraries

Head west to visit neighboring Eureka to the west or head east into Fenton or drive (west and then turnt to head back east) along the old 1926-32 Route 66 into Saint Louis through Gray Summit.

Old Route 66 in Times Beach

The first trail through the woods along the Meramec River into the Ozark highlands was opened by wild animals long ago. The native Illinois and Osage used it much later. They were followed by white men, trappers and explorers. By the 1850s there were cart trails linking St. Louis with the Times Beach area and these were used to build the railroad. The main state higway from St. Louis to the state capital in Jefferson City ran further north of Times Beach along what is now MO-100.

Cars became increasingly popular in the early 1910s but those roads were merely tracks full of potholes and became muddy quagmires when it rained. The state acted, building State Higways #14 and#100. The first bridge at this area, was a steel one built in 1900. Route 66 was aligned along both of these highways in 1926 and was paved between St. Louis and Gray Summit. Only in 1933, after the replacement of the 1900 bridge by the "historic Route 66 Bridge" in 1931, was Route 66 realigned to the south of its former course, running from Fenton to Gray Summit via the newly platted Times Beach.

From Times Beach to Eureka

This is the Map with directions. The 1933 alignment was a paved highway which crossed the Meramec River along the newly built bridge (now closed) but shown in Black in the Map above, then heading west (the part that can still be driven is shown in Blue) along the south flank of the town, and then heading west (Black) to cross the railroad tracks. This part of the old US 66 is now buried under I-44 (so it is shown in black) and only resurfaces at Exit 264 where it continues west (Pale Blue). It is a short drive from the Visitor Center to Eureka, but now, as Route 66 is cut off, to go from the Visitor Center on the eastern side of the bridge, to Eureka you have to take the freeway, shown in Red.

1933 Map of Route 66 from Villa Ridge to St. Louis, Missouri, notice that US 50 runs along the former 1926-32 US 66 alignment which is now MO-100 and Route 66 runs along its present course, through Eureka which appears next to the US 66 shield- lower left part of the map. Times Beach does not appear in this map.

1933 Map of Route 66 from Villa Ridge to St. Louis MO

1933 Map of Route 66 from Villa Ridge to St. Louis, Missouri, by Missouri Highway Map Archive

1950s: Four Lane Freeway

By the early 1940s Route 66 was becoming congested and the heavy traffic made it unsafe. The war truck traffic made it even worse. But it was gradually improved: Rittenhouse mentions in 1946 that "From here (Gray Summit) into St. Louis, US 66 has three or more lanes.". The 1954 USGS map at the top of this page shows the "three-lane" road at Times Beach, then comes the 2-lane Meramec River Bridge followed by a "4-lane" section to the east. At Eureka you can see the road open into a divided four-lane highway. During this period most of the original road was bypassed by a new four-lane divided dual carriageway highway which replaced the old US 66.

In 1956 the highway had become a divided highway east of Times Beach but, it split at Times Beach: with the westbound lanes following the old 1932 alignment from what is now Exit 266 west up to almost reaching Votaw Rd. The two eastbound lanes were new, and they are part of modern I-44. A new bridge was built in 1956 to carry it across the meramec River. Times Beach at that time was a thriving community.

The state petitioned in 1962 to have the Interstate renamed as I-66 instead of I-44, but this was denied by the AASHTO because the number "66" had already been used elsewhere.

1965 New roadbed

The old four lane US-66 ⁄ I-44 Freeway was improved again in Missouri after 1965, and the old US 66 was upgraded to Interstate standards: Another bridge across the Meramec River was added to the highway between the 1932 and the 1956 bridges, this one carried the westbound lanes of I-44, bypassing the old segment through Times Beach. By 1972 the whole of Route 66 had been replaced by the Interstate system. In 1974 it was decided that US Hwy 66 between Joplin and Chicago be eliminated, but his was delayed until I-55 in Illinois was completely brought up to Interstate standards. In 1977 the US 66 shields and signs were removed.

> > See the previous segment Fenton to Times Beach (east)

> > See the next segment Eureka to Allenton (west)

Sources

The Ramsay Place Names File

Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.

Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.

Image by Vítězslav Válka adapted under its CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ License

Map Icons by Nicolas Mollet under its CC BY SA 3.0 License