Rockslide sends 200 tons of rock and debris onto Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

200 tons of rock and debris slide onto Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Friday, blocking both lanes of travel in Springdale, Utah, Jan. 12, 2017 | Photo courtesy of John Marciano, St. George News

SPRINGDALE —  Zion National Park’s Scenic Drive is closed after a large rockslide blocked both lanes Friday evening; the closure will remain in effect until next week.

Just after 6 p.m., a rockslide was reported just north of the Grotto by a park visitor who came upon a large pile of rock and debris while driving along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, John Marciano, Zion National Park spokesman, said.

The rockslide completely blocked both lanes of travel just north of Zion Lodge and covered an area the size of four car lengths, he said, initially trapping 12 vehicles stopped on the opposite side of the slide when it occurred. All parties have since been shuttled or safely evacuated from the area, and no injuries were reported, Marciano said.

Zion National Park repair crews and geologists will assess the damage once the areas dry out, he said, which is expected to occur later next week.

“We can’t have crews going in there to remove debris until the area is analyzed,” Marciano said, “and once it is determined to be stable then we can start removing rocks and debris, but until then it’s just not safe.”

The constant rain, high elevation snow melt and the saturated ground make that area susceptible right now, he said, conditions that have caused several rock and debris slides over the last week.

Read more: Rockfalls, mudslides close trails in Zion National Park

Visitors to the park should be extra careful this time of year, Marciano said, as saturation remains a concern and further slides are possible throughout the park. The Lower Emerald Pools Trail and part of Sand Bench Trail remain closed due to other landslides, and visitors are not allowed to walk past the Grotto.

“Much of the park is still open,” Marciano said, “so visitors can still go to Angel’s Landing and many other park sites that are unaffected, even while we are dealing with the rockslide.”

Limited parking will be available all weekend, so visitors should expect crowding and intermittent closures at Canyon Junction once parking is full.

Marciano said flaggers on State Road 9 will be stopping traffic during short intervals throughout the day during the road construction, so visitors should expect delays.

Road condition updates will be provided on the park website and social media outlets. The park’s short range radio broadcast systems at Mt. Carmel Junction, Hurricane and both park entrances will also broadcast the status of the closure.

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

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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