The Park Service posted this image Saturday of the ZNP road crew cleaning up a giant rockfall just east of Canyon Junction. Thankfully, this kind of stuff typically occurs overnight, when the roads are empty. Nightly rockfall is typically small – watermelon and wheelbarrow-sized boulders – but sometimes, as above, a significant piece of sandstone crashes down, smashing to thousands of bits and blocking the road for quite a while. When you realize just how much rock and rubble falls onto Zion’s roads, it’s sort of amazing to realize there has never been a catastrophic, car-crushing accident via rockfall (at least to my knowledge).
Still, I have heard plenty of stories of rocks hurting people. Rockfall has injured and killed climbers in the Park (though that’s a little different, as climbing itself often causes the rockfall). I recall a story from a hiker returning from The Narrows, who had a cantaloupe-sized rock fall from high above and barely graze his shoulder before hitting the river. He was okay, but clearly shaken to consider how close he came to death.
Not that I want to scare anybody. But truly, rockfall IS scary, and given that it happens all the time here in Zion, as it does in many National Parks, we do ourselves and our loved ones a favor by keeping this in mind. If you ever see, hear, or cause a rockfall event yourself when hiking, it’s a good idea to yell, “ROCK!” to help everyone else in the area get their best chance to avoid the plummeting geology. When participating in very rockfall-prone activites like canyoneering or rock climbing, ALWAYS wear a helmet, so you can protect your brain, the most valuable tool you have. And please, never, ever, ever throw rocks off heights for fun, as there might be people down there.