Zion Canyon’s beauty and scale wouldn’t be possible without countless rockfall events that hastened its carving. But now that human infrastructure exists in the park—carrying millions of visitors each year—rockfall presents a significant risk that has to be managed.

UNAVCO recently supported a project assessing that risk in two locations in the park. One is a precarious pillar of rock on a cliff wall above several historic homes built by the National Park Service, while the other is the sheer face of Cable Mountain, where an extremely large rockfall event occurred in 2019.

Robyn Henderek, Physical Science Program Manager at Zion National Park, and Alex Tye, Assistant Professor of Geology at Utah Tech University, are collaborating on studies at both sites using terrestrial laser scans performed by UNAVCO engineers Marianne Okal and Erika Schreiber. For that precarious pillar, this will lead to a calculation of its center of mass for a stability assessment. At Cable Mountain, repeated scans could reveal whether the cliff face moves measurably with the daily temperature cycle.

To learn more about their work and see these sites for yourself, check out the video!

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