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Road crews continue working to clear Zion’s Highway 9 after rockfall

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Posted at 7:01 PM, Sep 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-25 21:02:18-04

ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah - Highway 9 through Zion National Park remained closed Friday and may stay closed through the weekend. Park officials say it all depends on how quickly they can take care of another potential rock fall.

Zion road crews are working as fast as they can to clear the rock slide that blocked the road Wednesday morning. Two boulders, weighing over 100 tons each broke free from the rock face onto the highway. Heavy equipment was brought in to begin breaking up those rocks, but Incident Commander Taiga Rohrer said engineers discovered another potential rock fall.

“We had some cracks developing in the canyon wall that those rocks came from,” said Rohrer. “And it was too risky to continue on with that operation without addressing it.”

Rohrer said two additional boulders, estimated at about 150 tons each are on the verge of falling. Friday crews began looking at ways to blast those boulders off the cliff side.

The concern, however, doesn't end there. Rohrer said they’ll need to evaluate what’s underneath those boulders as well.

“We’re hoping we can have this taken care of this weekend, but certainly it’s just a little too early to speculate actually getting it open because there are so many factors involved,” said Rohrer.

Saturday is free admission to the park for public lands day, that will bring in more visitors. While the closed road is an inconvenience, hikers say there’s plenty of park to see.

“We came here,” said hiker Patrick Klein. “We didn't go to another national park. We could have gone to the Grand Canyon or Bryce or something, but, still wanted to see this place.”

The main canyon is still open to traffic, and the Zion shuttle is running. Rangers opened the east entrance until 4 p.m. Friday, but just to passenger vehicles.