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Virgin River Gorge

northwest Arizona

This small section of freeway in Arizona was one of the most expensive and complicated sections to build in the entire U.S. interstate system. And once you’ve entered the Virgin River Gorge at a very high speed, it’s easy to understand why. Carved by the Virgin River, the gorge is 500 million years old. Cliffs rise as high as 500 feet above the freeway. Construction took 10 years and a million cubic yards of granite were removed. The Virgin River was rechanneled 12 different times and five long bridges were built. After a decade of construction, the 18-mile section of freeway through the gorge opened in 1973. Though many were critical of such environmental impact on the remarkable canyon, at least one well-known travel magazine, Arizona Highways, wrote "Somehow," construction of I-15 "enhanced rather than distracted from nature's handiwork."

 

Major Towns

St. George enjoys some of the balmiest weather in Utah and is known for its red rocks, palm trees and proximity to Zion National Park. Two states away, Mesquite is the first place to gamble once entering Nevada on I-15. It features casino resorts and golf courses. Both towns are fairly large, geared toward tourism and offer all services.

Route & Map     

Arizona’s section of I-15 passes through the Virgin River Gorge between St. George, UT and Mesquite, NV.

Length

It’s 39 miles from St. George to Mesquite. The section that goes through the gorge is 18 miles long.

Time

39 minutes, St. George to Mesquite

Links

The Virgin River Gorge is on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s List of Nationally and Exceptionally Significant Features of the Federal Interstate Highway System. It’s an interesting directory to check out. And both St. George and Mesquite boast plenty to do, as evidenced by their in-depth websites.

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