A massive landslide, possibly 1,700 feet wide and as much as 100 feet deep in places, shoved a Utah highway 100-150 feet downhill, indefinitely closing off one route to Cedar Breaks National Monument.
While Utah 14 also is a popular route to reach Bryce Canyon National Park from Cedar City and Interstate 15, there are other routes in the vicinity that motorists can take. As for Cedar Breaks, motorists will have to use Utah 143 and Utah 148 to access the national monument for the foreseeable future.
The slide 8 miles east of Cedar City pushed the highway off its roadbed and deeper into Cedar Canyon, Kevin Kitchen, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, said Wednesday afternoon. It slid sometime Saturday morning prior to 5 a.m., he said.
“The area has been prone to slides before. We had a similar one back in the early 1990s. Two days previous (to the recent slide) we did have some rock fall and debris cover the road about 1000 feet to the west of this slide. We were closed for several hours Thursday to clear up that debris," he said.
Crews planned to take aerial photographs on Thursday to help the department's engineers figure out the best way to repair the damage, said Mr. Kitchen, who could not predict when the route might be back in business.
“What we’re looking at right now, it’s going to be a few months. How many, I can’t tell you at this point," he said.
While Utah 14 is a popular route with truckers heading between U.S. 89 and Interstate 15, and with hunters who went up the canyon for deer hunting this past weekend, there have been no reports of missing persons along the route, the UDOT spokesman said.
In Cedar City at the Iron County Visitors Center, officials had maps and directions available for travelers hoping to reach Cedar Breaks for the rest of the fall foliage season.
"State Route 143, via Parowan and Brian Head, offers a look at unique scenery and low elevation fall colors while serving as a direct route to several viewpoints before connecting to State Route 148," officials for the visitors center said.
Although the visitor center and campground services are now closed at Cedar Breaks, the viewpoints will remain open until the road closes after snowfall prohibits traffic to the area. Utah State Route 143, Utah’s Patchwork Parkway, is a designated National Scenic Byway. Highway 143 also connects travelers to Highway 89 and State Route 12 leading to Bryce Canyon.
From the north, another access point to Bryce Canyon from Interstate-15 is State Route 20. State Route 20 connects to Highway 89 and State Route 12 to Bryce Canyon.
“The landslide will definitely impact travel," said Bonnie Char, a public relations specialist for the county. "But fortunately there are alternate Scenic Byways that provide access to the national parks, monuments, and recreation areas in southern Utah. Travelers may just discover additional favorites along the way.”