Monster-sized boulder busted, highway reopens

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

ST. GEORGE — The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway between Canyon Junction and the east entrance to the park is now open after being closed when a house-size boulder came loose from heavy rains and crashed onto the highway Wednesday.

In a press release issued Friday, park officials said the rock fall area is clear of debris and traffic is back to normal on the Zion Mount Carmel Highway that runs through Zion National Park.

“We want to thank all the people who have been affected by the road closure for their patience as we worked to get the road reopened as soon as it was safe to do so,” Jeff Bradybaugh, Zion National Park Superintendent, said.

Just after 6 p.m. Wednesday a huge boulder the size of a house fell onto the highway after the area was hit with more than two inches of rainfall in a short period of time, according to the National Park Service press release.

Flooding impacted the area around Zion National Park as a series of powerful storms swept through the area, Springdale, Utah, Aug. 10, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Kellan Cox, St. George News
Flooding impacted the area around Zion National Park as a series of powerful storms swept through the area, Springdale, Utah, Aug. 10, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Kellan Cox, St. George News

The rock fall occurred just below the tunnel in between Pine Creek Bridge and Scenic Drive where a large boulder split apart as it crashed onto the roadway, subsequently blocking both lanes of traffic.

A hazard geologist from the Utah Geological Survey was contacted and responded to the area on Thursday to make an assessment of the situation. A recommendation to remove the rock only after the water-drenched soil was allowed to dry out, reducing the chance of further rock falls, meant the road would be closed another day.

On Friday morning the boulder was broken into small pieces using a hydraulic ram hoe before removing it from the roadway.

Meanwhile, road crews cut the damaged section of asphalt and removed it before a temporary patch was set in its place.

Once the roadway was inspected and determined to be safe for travel it was reopened for traffic.

“The safety of the visiting public and our staff is of the utmost importance to us,” Bradybaugh said.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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

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1 Comment

  • outsider_100@hotmail.com August 14, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    We are all glad to have traffic moving again, but still have to wonder what is next?
    The unexpected rockfall that crushed two homeowners in Rockville woke up many folks who just assume that they are not at risk.
    We seem to have mastered avalanche risk assessment in the Winter months for Wasatch Front Canyon access, but it is unclear if the same diligence is applied to rocks above heavily travelled roads, like Highway 9. The great news is that the road was shut down when this occurred. It could have been a lot worse…..

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