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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Virgin River Gorge, Arizona

Virgin River
You will seldom ever see me promoting any drive on our Interstate Highway System (unless you are in a hurry).  We enjoy seeing America on the back roads.  However,  when we left Las Vegas on June 17 headed to  Zion National Park,  the best way to get there was to drive part of the way northeast on Interstate 15,  from Nevada, through a tiny portion of Arizona (top northwest corner) and then into Utah.

Boulders All Around Us
That tiny portion of Arizona happened to be through the Virgin River Gorge area... Wow--what an incredible drive, and shocking to see an interstate highway going through this area!   I was so fascinated with this area that you just KNOW that I HAD to do some research to find out more about this stretch of highway.

Taken from inside our car
Interstate 15 was part of the 1958 Interstate Highway system plan.  The highway was completed on both ends of that 19 mile gorge... BUT--it seems that the state of Arizona wanted the road planned 2 miles north of the gorge for cost reasons (obviously), but the Federal Highway Administration insisted on the road going through the preiously road-less gorge, due to the scenic beauty of the gorge.

Can you imagine building a road here?
Then in 1966,  the Federal government cut highway funds back 17% due to the Vietnam War.  SO--that halted the building through the gorge even longer.  To make a long story short, this 'not having enough money to do it'  went on for several years, so  the project wasn't completed until December of 1973---and that was ONLY after Utah had given some of its highway money to Arizona to complete the project.  

Absolutely Breath-taking!
The 3.82 mile section of the Lower Gorge,  where the gorge narrowed to as little as 150 feet in width, cost $13.8 million dollars to build,  making this the most expensive section of Interstate Highway until the completion of the Big Dig in Boston.

Looking a little more like Zion -as we go out of the gorge
Some people who live in Arizona don't even know about I-15 in THEIR state.  It cuts through the northwest corner, separated from the rest of the state by the Grand Canyon.  But--OH--is it ever gorgeous????   I thank everyone who worked on that stretch of road for years.  IF it weren't for this road,  there's no other way to drive through this gorgeous canyon.

Map of the Gorge
The Virgin River winds through 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.  Due to the winding of the interstate,  the gorge is also noted for its tricky driving conditions.

We enjoyed it ---and if you'd like to take a virtual trip through the Virgin River Gorge,  click HERE .  There are several YouTube Videos of this drive ---and I picked this one out because he gives you a little more history also.  Take the ride---you'll enjoy it...

Have a wonderful day.
Hugs,