The Devils Elbow Bridge has been lit up for the holidays for the last few years but the decorations were ruined in this year's flood.
As most locals know, Devils Elbow endured a record breaking flood earlier this year. Devils Elbow is a popular tourist destination for Route 66 enthusiasts and one of the big draws for those enthusiasts is the historic Devils Elbow Bridge.
A tradition in Devils Elbow, in recent years, has been to decorate the bridge for the Christmas holiday season. All the lights and decorations for the Devils Elbow Bridge were washed away in the flood.
The flood water breached the bridge and debri collected on top of and underneath it during the flood. The Toula’s house washed away during the flood an actually broke up on the bridge.
Now Devils Elbow advocate, Angie Hale, and the Devils Elbow community are collecting items to light up the historic bridge once again. The items she and her team are collecting include outside single strand multi-color LED and multi-color icicles, zip ties to secure decorations to the bridge, wreaths, single strand LED and icicle soft white lights, rolls of painter’s tape, two sets of 16 feet red rope lights, two timers, two 10 gauge 100 ft. outdoor extension cords, and cash donations. New or used items are accepted, but new is preferred.
Donations can be dropped off at either the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau and Visitors Center in St. Robert to Beth Wiles, the Executive Director of Pulaski County Tourism Bureau, or Agent Angie Hale’s office located at Dan Mense Bail Bonds Office 229B Historic Route 66 in Waynesville (next door to Cape Air).
Hale said she would like items to be donated by Wednesday, November 22 because “the plan is to decorate the bridge.” Hale also said she is doing this drive for donations “only because all was lost in the flood.”
Devils Elbow has a unique and interesting history. It began with its roots in the logging trade. Workers had challenges while working with trees in the early days.
According to an article by Cassie Lemus at the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau, “The early stages of Devils Elbow began when tie hackers were known for logging short leaf pine, and later hardwood railroad ties, upriver. The tie rafters would then rope the ties together and float them down the Big Piney River to the Gasconade River. They did, however, have much difficulty with a rather large bend in the river that continuously caused chaotic log jams, to which the rafters believed only the devil could have caused; hence the name Devils Elbow.”
No one knew what would happen to the first Devils Elbow Bridge as it began to age. According to an article by Laura Huffman at the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau, “The fate of the 1923 Devils Elbow Bridge was questioned for years. This crossing is unique in the fact that it was bypassed by a new bridge on a later alignment of Route 66 in 1942. Missouri Department of Transportation relinquished control of the bridge to Pulaski County. Drawing mainly local traffic and Route 66 enthusiasts the bridge continued to deteriorate until a solid plan to rehabilitate the bridge was finalized. The 1923 Devils Elbow bridge closed to all traffic October 2013 and re-opened May 2014. Today, the bridge is like new- strong, sturdy, and safe and ready to carry travelers from around the globe across the river. The refurbished bridge has reenergized the village of Devils Elbow.”
The community started decorating the bridge three years ago. According to Beth Wiles, Executive Director at the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau, “Actually back in 2014 I had a meeting with folks along Route 66 in Pulaski County. During that meeting people were sharing ideas of things that could be done along the Route and Bill Debo and Terry Roberson brought up the idea to decorate the bridge for the holidays. They headed out from the meeting and within a few weeks Bill Debo stopped by my office and said we have lights up! Over the next several years they gathered donations, purchased more lights at after-the-holiday sales and built their collection up to over 9000 lights, adding the light up 66 shields which are placed at the entrances and last year they expanded to include decorating antique vehicles.”
The bridge and Christmas lights promote tourism, too. According to Wiles, “For tourism this extends the season to promote the Route here in Pulaski County in addition to developing the holiday light and festival campaign. This campaign networks the bridge, Richland City of Lights, Waynesville's Manger Scene, and area events such as the night-time Christmas parade, Journey to Bethlehem and various festivals, offering more to see and do in Pulaski throughout the a [sic] 4-6 week period of time that years ago would have been considered part of our shoulder season. We have been able to track tourists coming to Pulaski County to see the bridge the last few years and the more a community is able to offer them to do the longer they will stay, grab a bite to eat, shop and enjoy our area. What it comes down to is being hospitable and appreciative that our guests chose Pulaski County USA for their get-away.”
Today, Route 66 enthusiasts from all over the world enjoy visiting Devils Elbow for photos at the bridge, stopping in at the Devils Elbow Post Office, eating at the Elbow Inn and generally taking in the charm of the village which has been added to the historic register this year.