Road Reopens After Giant Rock Fall In Zion National Park

Zion National Park Rock Fall
Photo Courtesy: Zion National Park

SPRINGDALE, UTAH – September 28, 2015 (Gephardt Daily) – The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, that runs through Zion National Park, has reopened after being closed due to a rock fall. The rock fall area has been cleared and all normal traffic flow through the park has resumed.

According to National Park Service officials, the massive boulders came down inside the park’s east entrance Tuesday night, and the park was closed from Wednesday. There were no reports of injuries.

Rock Fall In Zion National Park
Photo Courtesy: Zion National Park

Officials said the rock fall occurred 200 feet from the Pine Creek Bridge on the first switchback leading up to the Mount Carmel Tunnel, blocking both lanes of the road. The largest boulder was estimated to be 200 tons, at 19 feet high by 20 feet long, and 15 feet wide. The second boulder was 100 tons, at 10 feet high, 10 feet long, and 15 feet wide.

These large boulders were broken into smaller pieces using a hoe-ram provided and operated by a local contractor.
On further investigation, Zion road crews, Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Geological Survey, and Federal Highway Administration engineers determined that a section of cliff face above Wednesday’s rock fall constituted an immediate hazard for further rock fall on the road. This additional rock needed to be removed from the cliff face before the road could be fully reopened to traffic. The park secured the expertise of a specialized blasting firm to perform this task. This operation began on Friday, September 25 and concluded on Saturday, September 26. The park then cleaned up all the rock debris on the road and checked to ensure that the road itself was not damaged.
“We want to thank all the people who have been affected by the road closure for their patience as we tried to get the road reopened as soon as it was safe to do so”, said Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh. “The safety of the visiting public and our staff is of the upmost importance to us.”

This particular section of the road has seen rock fall periodically in the last 20 years. Dave Sharrow, park hydrologist said, “the area that the rock fall occurred in, is a part of the Springdale Sandstone rock formation. There are cliffs that are near the road and because the road is carved into the side of the mountain, rock falls can and do occur.”





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