Major rockfall closes Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, east side of Zion Park

Heavy equipment is used to break apart large boulders from a rockfall on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, which closed the east side of Zion National Park, Springdale, Utah, Sept. 24, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

SPRINGDALE –  A major rockfall early this morning blocked the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway in Zion National Park between Canyon Junction and the east entrance of the park, closing the entire east side of the park.

The rockfall occurred on the switchbacks west of the Zion Tunnel near the Pine Creek Bridge and is blocking both sides of the road. It was first reported by a visitor at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, park spokesperson Jin Prugsawan said.

“We don’t have a report of how much in pounds, but for the rockfall, anywhere from a storage-shed-sized rock to twice that size,” Prugsawan said. “There is a lot of debris in the road as well.”

The road is closed at Canyon Junction, at the intersection where Highway 9 meets Scenic Drive, Prugsawan said.

“You can still access Scenic Drive, but you cannot go further into the park,” she said.

No injuries have been reported, no evacuations were required and there have not been any reports of visitors stranded, Prugsawan said. Due to the rock fall, emergency response is not available on the east side of Zion.

Crews will have to blast the rock and use heavy machinery to clear it, and State Route 9 is expected to reopen  Wedneday evening.

 Alternate east and west routes are available via Highway 59 from Hurricane to Fredonia, Arizona and Highway 14 from Cedar City to Long Valley Junction and Highway 89.

The south entrance to the park remains open, and visitors can still access the park by traveling east on State Route 9 from Interstate 15. All park facilities including the visitor center, museum, campgrounds, and shuttle buses are open and operating as normal. 

To keep visitors informed, traffic advisory signs are being placed near Mt. Carmel Junction, Virgin and near the park’s south entrance. 

The park’s short range radio broadcast systems at Mt. Carmel Junction, City of Hurricane and both park entrances will also broadcast the status of the closure.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • SteveSGU September 23, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Any explanation for why visitors coming from the east could not enjoy the eastern side of the park today (road not affected by the rockfall)? It seems the park officials limit our access to our park more than is necessary.

    And what happens if we have another government shutdown in the coming days? Are the parks in Utah prepared to stay open with funding from the state, like was finally arranged last time?

    • Accountable September 24, 2015 at 10:15 am

      Where would the turn around? Where would they park?

  • tiff September 24, 2015 at 6:42 am

    It says there are alternative east and west routes through Fredonia if you want to go the long way.

  • DRT September 24, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    This is just a guess, but I’m thinking that the major reason for shutting down the east side of the park, is because all of the emergency services are located on the west side of the park. So when Johnny and Sally go for a hike and get lost, or Teddy falls down and breaks his crown, the rangers wouldn’t be able to ride in on their white horses and save the day.
    OK, so I took some libertys here, sue me. 😀

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