PAGE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Department of Transportation is warning curious onlookers about the dangers of getting too close to the damaged mountain slope on US 89, approximately 25 miles south of Page.
A landslide on Feb. 20 forced the closure of US 89 between the US 89A junction near Bitter Springs and the State Route 98 junction near Page (mileposts 523-546).
The Echo Cliffs region is a known hiking area, but 30-foot chasms have been spotted near the damaged pavement, and pedestrians should avoid the area.
Despite the warnings to onlookers, businesses in the surrounding area want the public to know that they are still open and accessible. The area depends on traffic passing through and booking activities like fishing, rafting, and hiking, and local merchants want to get the word out that customers are still able to come.
Meantime, the highway remains closed. ADOT has geo-technical engineers at the site, who are assessing the stability of the ground. After receiving environmental clearance on Monday, ADOT will soon begin drilling the shafts to deploy equipment that will measure slope movement at a specific location.
But until it's been determined that the area is stable, ADOT can't move forward with a design project to repair the highway.
Motorists, including all commercial truck traffic, are strongly advised to use one of the recommended alternate routes, which include traveling east on US 160 to SR 98 and northwest on SR 98 for 65 miles to Page. The detour adds an additional 45 miles over the direct route. Non-local traffic and trucks should not use Navajo Route 20; trucks are getting stuck on this mostly dirt road, which is not an appropriate substitute route for highway traffic.
Another option for drivers is to take northbound US 89A through Marble Canyon toward Fredonia to reconnect with US 89 in Kanab, Utah. US 89A remains open and is not affected by the US 89 closure near Echo Cliffs.
"Drivers really need to stick with one of the designated detour routes," said Jennifer Toth, ADOT deputy director for transportation. "This is a popular area for outdoor enthusiasts and hikers, but until our geological experts can say with 100 percent certainty that last week's shifting in the ground has stopped, motorists and pedestrians need to stay clear of the area."
US 89 will remain closed for the immediate future. There is no timetable to reopen the highway, which has approximately 500 feet of damage, including 150 feet of pavement that buckled four-to-six feet due to a landslide and failure of the slope.
You can go online for up-to-date information on the US 89 closure.