SPRINGDALE, Utah - A giant rock fall blocked the Zion- Mount Carmel Highway, State Route 9, in Zion National Park Wednesday morning.
Officials said the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway between Canyon Junction and the East Entrance is closed, and may remain so into the weekend.
According to Zion National Park officials, a significant rock fall happened on the switchback near the Pine Creek Bridge and is blocking both sides of the road. It was reported to park rangers about 4 AM.
“These are really large rocks, they blocked both sides of the road,” said Zion National Park Public Affairs Officer Jin Prugsawan. “Zion Road crews have been working to clear the road.”
The boulders are the size of a large storage shed, weighing between 100 and 200 tons. Initially road crews thought they might have to blast the boulders, but decided they could instead break up the rock and haul it out.
“Zion road crews used a ram hoe to break up the rock,” said Prugsawan. “Then they were using front end loaders and other heavy equipment to remove that debris.”
Crews will have to blast the rock and use heavy machinery to clear it.
The closure turned dozens of cars away from the front gate of Zion National Park. Tourist Larry Ellashek said they planned to drive through the park on their way to Bryce Canyon, but will now have to rethink plans.
“Holy Cow,” said Ellashek on seeing a picture of the rock slide. “That ain’t a rock, that’s a mountain.”
Emergency response is not available on the east side of Zion because of the rock fall.
The Scenic Drive and Zion Canyon remain open. After the debris is removed, the Federal Highway Administration will have to evaluate the road to determine if there is any structural damage. Engineers will also evaluate the cliff side for another potential fall.
Alternate east and west routes are available via Highway 59 from Hurricane, Utah, to Fredonia, Arizona, and Highway 14 from Cedar City, Utah to Long Valley Junction and Highway 89.
See Alternate Routes Below