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What is the Gateway Arch?

Misty Amber Brighton
Misty Amber Brighton

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, is the tallest national historic landmark in the United States. It often is referred to as "the gateway to the West." The hollow arch stands 630 feet (192 m) high, spans 630 feet (192 m) at ground level and is a popular tourist attraction. It opened to visitors in 1967, and more than a million people per year make the trek to the top of the legendary monument.

The Gateway Arch is a part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The arch itself reflects the westward expansion in the U.S. during the 1800s. In addition to the Gateway Arch, the park contains the Museum of Westward Expansion and the Old Courthouse, which was the site of the original Dred Scott trial and Virginia Minor's case for women's voting rights in 1870.

The Gateway Arch welcomes visitors to St. Louis, Missouri.
The Gateway Arch welcomes visitors to St. Louis, Missouri.

The arch was constructed from February 1963 to October 1965 using 900 tons of stainless steel. The legs are 54 feet (16.5 m) thick at the base of the arch, it is 17 feet (5.2 m) thick at the top, and the structure weighs more than 17,000 tons. In high winds, the arch can sway up to 18 inches (7 cm) in either direction.

Tourists who would like to visit the top of the Gateway Arch can ride one of the two trams that begin at the north and south legs of the arch. After boarding the tram, guests will be greeted by a guide who will explain the history of the arch during the four-minute tram ride. Trams leave approximately every 10 minutes, and each visit normally lasts around an hour.

Tours of the Gateway Arch can be taken year round. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, tours are given from 8:20 a.m. to 9:20 p.m. During the winter, tours can be taken between 9:20 a.m. and 5:10 p.m. The last tram leaves 45 minutes prior to closing to allow all guests the opportunity to view the city from the top of the arch during daylight hours as well as for safety reasons. Visitors wishing to avoid large crowds should plan to visit before 10 a.m.

Visitors can purchase tickets online or at the park the day of the visit. Tickets for admission to the Gateway Arch also include a small fee for entrance to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial park. Guests should wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. It also is helpful to know that there are no restroom facilities at the top of the arch.

The north and south legs of the arch each have unique exhibits that guests can view while waiting for a tram to carry them to the top. The north leg of the arch contains the history of the arch along with photographs taken during its construction. The south leg of the arch shows what life was like in St. Louis during the 1800s during the U.S. westward expansion.

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    • The Gateway Arch welcomes visitors to St. Louis, Missouri.
      By: Marty Haas
      The Gateway Arch welcomes visitors to St. Louis, Missouri.