The popular Mount Carmel Highway in southern Utah’s Zion National Park, also known as State Route 9, was closed early Wednesday fallowing a massive rock fall that blocked the road, and is expected to remain closed through the weekend.
A visitor reported the rock fall to park officials at around 4:30 a.m. local time Wednesday on the stretch of road between Canyon Junction and the east entrance to Zion National Park.
The heaviest boulder that fell was 19 feet tall by 20 feet long and estimated at 200 tons, and required road crews to use a mechanical hoe ram to break it into smaller pieces for removal.
According to park officials, Zion road crews as well as engineers from the Utah Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration will be surveying the cliff face above the rock fall for immediate hazards, and deciding whether or not to remove additional rocks for safety.
“There’s only so much you can do. Rock falls happen in Zion every day,” Zion spokeswoman Jin Prugswan told Deseret News. “Most times they happen where no one can even see them, but then there are times where they affect people, like covering the entire road.”
This particular section of State Route 9 has seen a large amount of rock falls of the past 20 years according to KSL.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the recent rock fall is that, until it is cleared, emergency response services will not be available on the east side of Zion National Park.
Last week, seven hikers died in Keyhole Canyon on Zion’s east side when flash floods swept through southern Utah.
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