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Zion-Mount Carmel Highway And Tunnel Recognized As National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark


If you've ever driven through the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and Tunnel at Zion National Park, you know what kind of engineering marvel it is. Well, it's now official. The highway and tunnel have been designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

On Friday the president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Andrew W. Herrmann, will join Zion Superintendent Jock Whitworth to host a ceremony marking that designation. The public is invited to the ceremony at the South Campground Amphitheater in Zion National Park at 2:00 pm to celebrate this honor.

The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and Tunnel go where no road had gone before: up Pine Creek Canyon, through the Navajo sandstone cliffs, and east across the slickrock of the plateau.

Over a three-year period, this improbable route presented unique and dangerous challenges to the hardworking crews. They began work on opposite ends of the road. On the western side, a series of six switchbacks were carved from the canyon floor up. On the eastern side, crews blasted their way through a sea of slickrock sandstone.

The most significant challenge was the arduous task of constructing the 1.1-mile tunnel through the heart of Zion's sandstone cliffs. On July 3, 1930, work was completed, and the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and Tunnel were officially designated and opened to the public.


My husband and I drove that highway going from 3 nights at Zion to 3 nights at Bryce, part of a grand road trip from Pensacola, Florida. What a privilege to make that beautiful drive -- we are grateful to the original engineers and all the workers.

I grew up in St. George Utah so Zion's is "my" park. Family, school, and church-sponsered outings often featured a visit to the park. I am old enough to remember as a child stoping at the tunnel "windows" to look at the view . Can't do that any more. My mother described an activity her teenaged/young adult self during the late 1940s/early 50s particpated in called "tunnel running". I had to cajole and beg for details of her accidental confession. This hare-brained activity from my otherwise steady and reliable mother engaged anc captured my attention. What to do about it other than to introduce some of my fellow thespians in the Dixie College theater program to the activity. We had a blast, though I decided after two outings it was much too dangerous. Not wanting to encourage future illegal activity, I need to state that pedestrian activity in the tunnel is illegal. It was illegal when my mother did it and was illegal when I did it during the mid-1970s. Night-time with no flashlights and a 6' willow branch for a guide-stick made it outright dangerous and foolhardy. In my own defense, scientific study reveals that the ability to reason and match consequences against risk isn't fully developed until about age 25. So any statements adults make about brain-dead adolescents and young adults are true.

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