Cars Under A Mountain: Tunnels in St George and Zion
I wish I lived in the days when people tunneled through mountains rather than dig them down. There’s nothing better than a good long tunnel on a boring drive like the I-70 tunnel that takes you into Denver.
Another great example is the tunnel in Zion National Park. Long, tight and dark, the tunnel gets you through the bottom of the park to the upper. I think I enjoy traveling the tunnel, minus the waiting on a busy day, as much as the hikes and the awesome scenery of the park.
The 1.1-mile tunnel was begun in the 1920’s and finished in the 30’s. It is only big enough for two cars to pass and all traffic has to clear for an RV to fit through, thus the wait. It’s dark except for the cuts in the one side that gives you a brief glimpse of the canyon outside.
There’s another tunnel from this era right in the middle of St. George. It’s the Bigelow Tunnel, also referred to as the Middleton Tunnel. It was named after Thomas Bigelow, a race car driver out of Los Angeles, who convinced the city council at the time to dig the tunnel and create a better road through Southern Utah. That road eventually became Highway 91 and increased visitors to the area.
The tunnel is still there and can be seen going through the bluff on the North side of I-15 and across from the Red Cliffs Mall. It is now private property and the company that owns it uses it for storage.
Like I say, I wish they would have continued digging tunnels. There’s something invigorating and mysterious that happens when you are traveling through the middle of dirt and rock in darkness on a bright day.
They made a pedestrian tunnel under I-15 recently, which is pretty cool. Tunnels are great in a car and the bigger the mountain the better. I wish 700 South in St George continued through the Bluffs in both directions. I would go out of my way to take that underground passage every day.