A Boulder Fell Onto A SW Colorado Highway. Here’s What Happened Next

June 14, 2019
Photo: Memorial Rock | Worker For Scale - CDOT
A Colorado Department of Transportation worker stands next to what was later dubbed "Memorial Rock" to provide a sense of scale for the huge boulder, May 24, 2019.

When a rock falls in Colorado, most people don’t notice — unless the governor decides to name it.

When Gov. Jared Polis dubbed a 8.5 million-pound boulder that crash landed next to Highway 145 outside of Dolores “Memorial Rock” on Memorial Day Weekend, and made the unusual decision to keep the rock where it is, it got headlines in the Huffington Post, Time and more. Quartz even declared that the rock offered a “useful philosophical lesson for humanity.”

But high-minded ideals aside, it turns out a lot of people want to see the darn thing. That’s caused traffic problems.

So the Colorado Department of Transportation has a few directives for would be visitors: “You need to keep with the flow of traffic,” said Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes. The area will be under construction until mid-July. “You cannot stop outside of the work area and get out of your vehicle and walk through the work zone.”

And motorists cannot trespass on the private property where most of the boulder lies, Schwantes said. That’s been happening “quite frequently,” she said, and has even forced CDOT staff and local law enforcement to keep a close eye on the scene.

“They were constantly having ... to approach people to continue on,” Schwantes said.

The property owner has been in touch with CDOT and the governor’s office to express his concerns, Schwantes said. The landowner did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In an email, a spokesman for Polis said the office was "coordinating closely to provide updates and address specific issues that the property owner has raised."

Although the boulder initially slowed travel, it’s created a mini-boom, said Tazewell Vass, co-owner of the Dolores Food Market.

“I had customers in today asking, ‘How far up is the rock?’" he said on Friday morning.

Many of his customers this time of year are tourists heading to local mountain bike trails, and he doesn’t expect the boulder to be an attraction for much longer.

“I think that it's a curiosity that'll pass,” he said. “There are a lot of rocks next to the roads in Colorado. And why this is getting any attention is beyond me. If you drive that road, there are a hundred rocks that size that slid down over the last hundred years.”

Vass does think “Memorial Rock” is a misnomer. He thinks it should be named after the man who made it an attraction in the first place: “Polis Rock,” he said.