WYDOT Warning After 30-Ton Rock Falls in Wind River Canyon
Written by Andrew-Rossi on May 4, 2022
Even while extensive rockfall mitigation work continues in the Wind River Canyon, drivers need to stay on alert for falling rocks – large and small.
W.Y.DO.T. project engineer Jordan Erz released a public message about the work in the Wind River Canyon. After a sudden rockfall last week, two contractors and dozens of workers immediately began already – planned rock mitigation projects to secure the area and many others.
“After a rock slide or a landslide happens,” Erz’s statement reads, “it can be very unpredictable how dangerous it is, even to the guys who have more than 20 years experience doing rock mitigation work.”
The impetus for this statement was another rockfall in the same area as last week’s rockfall, but instead of several smaller rocks, it was one big one.
W.Y.D.O.T. maintenance workers cleared the road on Saturday, April 23. However, there was still a large amount of unsafe rock to be removed. So on Sunday, April 24, WYDOT geologists and engineers came to look, and there was one “Large Rock of Concern.”
“Project prime contractor Oftedal Construction moved in equipment to remove the rock debris so there would be a place for the rest of the rock to have a safe place to land,” Erz says. “and to not cause more damage to the roadway.
However, when Midwest Rockfall – the second contractor and the rockfall experts – started rock scaling the slide area, a rock smaller than a basketball was dislodged, and it hit below the Large Rock of Concern. That impact was enough to send the Large Rock of Concern plummeting down.
“No one was expecting it to come down, so none of us shot a video. This is why we always stop traffic when rock scaling. It took very little force to move a 30-ton rock down the hill. If we didn’t have a cleared spot for it to land, it would have most definitely landed on the highway.”
Erz is aware of drivers’ frustration during delays and the occasional closure for their rock mitigation projects. However, no driver should ignore the threat of rockfalls in the Wind River Canyon.
“Something to keep in mind, please: A 50-pound rock the size of a basketball moved a 30-ton rock — almost the weight of the D8 Dozer parked in the canyon. Rockslides are extremely dangerous. Stay back.”