Enormous rock slide closes road in Shawnee National Forest

Friday, April 9, 2004

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A rock slide in the Shawnee National Forest has blocked a road with boulders, trees and slabs of stone the size of pianos.

Forest Service officials said Thursday they don't have the heavy equipment needed to remove the rock and it could take two weeks or more to find a contractor and remove the rubble.

The pile is about 25 feet tall from the road to the highest point. About 35 feet of the one-lane gravel road is blocked.

The road is in the LaRue-Pine Hills area of the Shawnee Forest about 20 miles southwest of Carbondale. Forest officials aren't sure when the rock slide occurred, but the debris was reported Monday morning.

It was the third large rock slide in Southern Illinois in the last 50 years, according to Scott Crist, fire management officer at the Forest Service's Murphysboro office.

Visitors are being discouraged from climbing on the rocks because they could shift. "It's probably an isolated occurrence, but that doesn't mean there couldn't be a little more rock that comes down in that same area," Crist said.

Officials suspect the slide was caused by natural weathering, which occurs when water seeps into the rock and freezes. The fallen sandstone and limestone will likely be used to enhance trails.

There are several homes located on the road, but Crist said there is a detour they can take to get around the rubble. The blocked road doesn't get much traffic, Crist said, but it is popular with forest visitors because it is scenic and leads to hiking trails.

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