House-sized boulder tumbles, blocks highway in Zion National Park

A house-sized boulder has closed the Zion-Mt. Carmel highway indefinitely while crews work to remove it. Zion National Park, Utah, Aug. 10, 2016 | Photo courtesy of National Park Service, St. George News

ZION NATIONAL PARK — The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway between Canyon Junction and the east entrance to the park will remain closed for several days as a house-sized boulder loosened by the recent rainfall shuddered loose and came crashing down onto the highway.

No one was hurt in the incident, as traffic to the switchbacks leading to the tunnel had been halted while other debris from passing thunderstorms was cleared. The cleanup was underway when the boulder crashed to the highway. Both sides of the highway are blocked.

The Virgin River at approximately 3 p.m. A series of powerful storms swept through Southern Utah Wednesday, Aug 10, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News
The Virgin River at approximately 3 p.m. A series of powerful storms swept through Southern Utah Wednesday, Aug 10, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

Aly Baltrus, Zion National Park spokesperson, said the highway will reopen when officials declare the roadway safe for travel.

The park will be working with a hazard geologist from the Utah Geological Survey to remove the rock and assess the road, Baltrus said.

The Scenic Drive and Zion Canyon remain open, which leads to the interior of the park’s visitor center and other popular hiking routes. The shuttle is running on a normal schedule.

Park officials received word at 1 p.m. from the National Weather Service that an intense, fast-moving thunderstorm was on its way toward the park, bringing with it hail and immense rainfall, Baltrus said in a press release.

Officials immediately closed all slot canyons, including The Narrows. At 2:10 p.m., flooding on the switchbacks below the tunnel and in several other places forced the park to stop traffic at each entrance station and halt the shuttle system in place.

By 4 p.m., park maintenance had cleared Scenic Drive and Mount Carmel Highway from Scenic Drive to the South Entrance, making it possible for traffic to restart and tourists to return, although many had already left for the day.

The alternate east and west route is state Highway 59 from Hurricane, Utah, to Fredonia, Arizona, and state Highway 14 from Cedar City to Long Valley Junction and Highway 89.

People traveling to the park may access the park by traveling east on state Route 9 from Interstate 15. All park facilities including Zion Canyon Visitor Center, the park’s museum, campgrounds, and shuttle buses are now open and operating as normal.

Traffic advisory signs will be placed near Mt. Carmel Junction, near Virgin and near the park’s south entrance.

Road condition updates will be provided on the park website and social media outlets. The park’s short range radio broadcast systems at Mt. Carmel Junction, Hurricane and both park entrances will also broadcast the status of the closure.

Email: rwayman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @NewsWayman

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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5 Comments

  • Robert August 10, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    Oh that’s adorable! A GREAT BIG LOADER showed up to move that “bothersome” Boulder ??????

  • .... August 10, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    This could of been a scene of a tragic accident if someone had been driving by at that moment. and I’m glad no one was. Praise the Lord !

    • hiker75 August 11, 2016 at 8:13 am

      And I would like to thank Mother Nature for her perfect timing.

      • ladybugavenger August 11, 2016 at 11:34 am

        Who is this Mother Nature people speak of?

  • wilbur August 11, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    gonna need a bigger bulldozer

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