Rocks seem to be pretty easy to come by in Colorado. So, what makes this one so special?

The short of it is, a massive 8.5 million pound rock has become one of Colorado's most interesting - and unique - points of interest... but that was never the plan (or a plan, at all).

If you've driven along Colorado Highway 145 anytime in the last two years, you might know what I'm talking about; if not, allow me to explain:

Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation
Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation

On May 24, 2019, two massive boulders fell onto Colorado Highway 145 near Dolores, a road down in the southwest part of the state.

Google Maps
CO-145, Google Maps

One of the rocks landed directly onto the highway, destroying a portion of the road between Cortez and Telluride. That rock, which was estimated to weigh a whopping 1140 tons, was blasted and removed from the roadway by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

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The second, larger rock - weighing in at about 4400 tons - rolled through both lanes on CO-145, which created a 10-to 15-foot trench, and came to rest on the opposite side of the highway.

Colorado Department of Transportation
Colorado Department of Transportation

But rather than destroy the 8.5 million pound boulder, Governor Jared Polis and his administration decided to take a different route:

Governor Polis announced on June 4, 2019 that the massive boulder would become a new state landmark which, in turn, would also save Colorado taxpayers money.

“We expect that for generations to come, people will have the opportunity to observe this geological masterpiece that we’re calling Memorial Rock,” Polis said during a June 4 morning news conference (as per the Denver Post), adding the decision will save taxpayers about $200,000.

In July 2019, the reconstruction of the destroyed road was completed.

The emergency reconstruction work that began in mid-June 2019 cost $1.12 million and was completed within a nine-week time frame.

While CO-145 was not re-routed nor re-aligned, the reconstruction included:

  • Widening of the road surface (by four feet) to allow for additional shoulder space
  • Installation of new guardrail on the east side of the highway to ensure the safety and protection of passing vehicles from the massive boulder (aka Memorial Rock) that remains on the side of the road
  • Construction of an embankment on the west side (slope-side) of the highway to catch any future potential mud or rock slides from reaching the highway

"People want to know what is one thing that distinguishes you from everyone else. Now, we’ve got a big huge eight million pound rock," said Susan Lisak with the Dolores Chamber of Commerce. "It closed us down for a while but now it’s a great tourist attraction that people will still come around."

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