Usually, when my husband asks me where I’d like to go for a vacation I’ll respond with Southern Utah, Nevada or Arizona since I love the Southwest desert. On our short trip in May he drove me to Arizona.
If you’re heading to Nevada, just after St. George, Ut (which is at the southern tip) you enter the corner of Arizona and then into Nevada. This is where we hit what I consider one of the Universe’s most amazing Earth creations – The Virgin River Gorge which you must drive through.
Here is some information from Wikipedia:
The Virgin River Gorge, located between St. George, Utah, and Littlefield, Arizona, is a long canyon that has been carved out by the Virgin River in northwest Arizona. The Virgin River rises on the Colorado Plateau and created the topography of both Zion National Park and the Virgin River Gorge. The Gorge connects the southwestern rim of the Colorado Plateau and the northeastern edge of the Mojave Desert.
Interstate 15 runs through the canyon and crosses the Virgin River several times. The Virgin River Gorge section of Interstate 15 is one of the most expensive parts of interstate highway ever constructed. Due to the winding of the canyon, the highway within is also noted for its tricky driving conditions.
The climate of the canyon is typical of the Mojave Desert with hot summers and mild winters. Flora and fauna in the canyon are also typical of the Mojave. The canyon is popular among rock climbers, hikers, and campers.
This is from 20,00 feet above the Gorge. Isn’t it spectacular?
Obviously it took a lot of man power and hours to carve a road through this Gorge. It was one of the most expensive road projects ($10 million per mile). It was built mainly for its beauty and for the low grades for trucks. Currently 23,000 vehicles traverse this roadway per day.
Here is some more information from Wikipedia:
Despite extra funding, however, challenges remained. Flash flooding and quicksand in the gorge repeatedly caused problems, with equipment and materials apparently disappearing overnight. Worse, the project was to claim a life, when in October 1969, a helicopter performing reconnaissance on the gorge crashed due to wind, killing the pilot. To help navigate the gorge’s rugged and unforgiving terrain, a special piece of equipment called a swamp buggy had to be brought from Texas. Even with this help, the route still demanded construction of four bridges over Virgin River. The westernmost bridge and the bridge carrying the northbound lanes at the third bridge location from the west were completed in 1972. By 1973, all five bridges were finally complete. Even before its opening, it was promoted as the most scenic highway in the state; a 1988 article in Arizona Highways said that the project “enhanced rather than distracted from Nature’s handiwork”. The Virgin River was rechanneled 12 times in what was the most expensive rural freeway in the country, at the price of approximately $10 million per mile ($49 million in 2007 dollars).
As we traveled through this year, they’re doing more repairs but we actually experienced few delays which was nice.
I made a short video of the Gorge. This is coming from Nevada back into Utah. This was my first attempt at videoing from my camera so it’s definitely not high quality and I couldn’t figure out how to block the sound but it will give you an idea of driving through this marvelous section.
And finally, to show the beauty of this extraordinary highway, here are some pictures courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:
I hope someday all of you will have the chance to drive through this Gorge. It is a ride that you’ll never forget.
LHR my friends.