- Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2015

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (AP) - Scotts Bluff National Monument officials have announced that a trail will remain closed until it is determined that it is stable and safe after a recent rock slide.

The rock slide happened on the southwest-facing side of the monument, the Star-Herald (https://bit.ly/1RIJ3q9 ) reported Wednesday. Facility manager Kevin Haberman said that about 25,000 to 30,000 tons of rock fell on Saddle Rock Trail, covering it up to 6 feet deep.

Officials say it will likely be January or February before a geologist will be able to take a look at the trail.

They’re concerned that the 4-foot-wide trail may have been undercut by about 10 feet. Haberman says that an upper area of the trail is only supported by a layer of volcanic ash, and that a section of the pathway does not have a significant ledge.

Haberman says there would be an 80-foot drop if the ledge were to fail. Barricades have been placed on the trail to keep people away from the site of the rock slide.

Rock that fell on a remote portion of the trail still needs to be removed, and Haberman says officials will have to look for money to do that.

The facility manager says that rock slides have been occurring more regularly within the last six to eight months. Haberman says erosion in the area has been accelerated due to heavy moisture, particularly heavy rainfall in May.

If the affected portion of the trail is permanently closed, Haberman says there are no other options to reconnect parts of the trail because other areas of the monument are too rocky or steep for use.

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Information from: Star-Herald, https://www.starherald.com

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