Cleanup of trail, shuttle stop in Zion cease in anticipation of additional rockfall

ST. GEORGE — Cleanup of the Weeping Rock Trail and shuttle stop where a large rockfall occurred last month in Zion National Park has been put on hold indefinitely in anticipation of more rockfalls in the area. 

The rockfall occurred in the Zion Canyon Aug. 24, injuring three and leaving some temporarily stranded on the Weeping Rock Trail. 

Cleanup of the debris began shortly after the rock, determined to be an estimated 60-by-180-feet large, crashed to the ground from 2,000 feet above. The cleanup effort has now been put on hold, however, as park officials believe that another rockfall in the area is imminent, park spokesperson Eugenne Moisa said. 

“We do expect more rockfall. For this reason, the area remains closed … Rockfalls have been occurring in these areas for thousands of years. With a recent rockfall in an area, the chances of more debris coming down increases,” he said. 

The park typically evaluates the risk of another rockfall from the same area by examining the area for stability. Because this rockfall came from about 2,000 feet above the canyon floor, it is difficult to thoroughly investigate. 

A before and after comparison of Cable Mountain where a rockfall occurred Aug. 24, Zion National Park, Utah, Sept. 13, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

So far, the park has had some preliminary work done by survey crews, geologists, park resource and trail employees. Once these teams report that the area is low-risk for workers, crews can once again work to clear the area. 

“Trails crews have not been given the go-ahead to commence working in the area since the area remains unstable or high-risk,” Moisa said. “Typically, the larger the rockfall, the longer you wait to let the ground settle.”

Because they have no way of knowing when the area will be considered safe to work in, how bad the extent of the damage is or how long it will take to finish clearing debris and repairing trails, shuttle stop seven, Weeping Rock Trail, Hidden Canyon Trail and the East Rim Trail to Observation Point will remain closed indefinitely. 

Those who wish to hike Observation Point can still do so from the east side of the park. 

While many rockfalls occur as a result of rainy conditions, this one occurred during sunny weather. These kinds of rockfalls typically occur due to stress from thermal expansion of the rock after being heated by the sun. Over time, wind, water, temperatures and gravity can all contribute to weakening a rock, making it difficult to predict when they will occur. 

Current park conditions can be found on the Zion website.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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