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Contact: Colleen Bathe, (435) 834-4400
On Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 5:00pm on the Wall Street section of the Navajo Loop Trail there was a significant rock fall. While there were people on the trail at this time, no one was injured. The rock debris covers an area roughly 60 feet long, 15 feet deep and 15 feet wide. There is approximately 400-500 tons of rock in this area. The rocks range in size, the largest being the dimensions of a midsized car. The trail will remain closed at this site to ensure visitor safety as we develop a plan to reopen the trail, complete environmental compliance, and obtain funding. It is projected that work to clear the rock fall debris will start in the spring of 2007. If deemed safe the park plans to open both sides of the trail up to the rock fall, so visitors will be able to view the rock fall and the large spruce tree in Wall Street.
The rock fall was caused by the same processes, mainly erosion and weathering, which have shaped Bryce Canyon into what visitors see today. The primary weathering force at Bryce Canyon is frost wedging. Here we experience over 200 freeze/thaw cycles each year. Water or melting snow seep into the cracks of rocks during the day and at night the water freezes. When water freezes it expands by almost 10%, bit by bit prying open cracks, making them ever wider in the same way a pothole forms in a paved road. In addition to frost wedging, rain also sculpts the landscape. Even the crystal clear air of Bryce Canyon creates slightly acidic rainwater. This weak carbonic acid can slowly dissolve limestone grain by grain, rain is also a source of erosion. In the summer, monsoon type rainstorms, travel through the Bryce Canyon region bringing short duration high intensity rain causing the relocation of rock and soil debris.
All other trails in the park remain open at this time. Visitors are still able to complete a loop between Sunrise and Sunset Points by connecting the Two Bridges side of the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden. Routine maintenance will be preformed on other trails during the summer months. These trails will still be open, but there may be short delays to maintain the safety of the crew and visitors.
Be prepared for hiking at Bryce Canyon
The Rangers stress safety when talking with visitors: emphasizing the importance of wearing proper footwear and hiking on trails that are within their abilities. Walking sticks are recommended. Some of the trails are muddy and can be slippery. There are boot washing stations at the new Sunset Point restroom facility. People do not realize that Bryce Canyon is above 8,000 feet in elevation and arid. For these reasons visitors may want to dress in layers and certainly take plenty of water with them. Remember, erosion is constant so be aware of your surroundings.