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Rediscovering Colorado: The giant boulder that became a tourist attraction

Governor Polis even came to the town of Dolores to open the Point of Interest on the side of the road

DOLORES, Colo. — As the world reopens, 9NEWS reporter Marc Sallinger and Anne Herbst are hitting the road and Rediscovering Colorado.

There are some cities that spend millions to attract tourists. The town of Dolores in Southwestern Colorado had an attraction quite literally just fall down the mountain.

"Big rock. Estimated 8 million pounds," said Todd Jones, a retired CDOT employee in southwestern Colorado. "It’s going to be there a long time."

The trail the boulder left as it rolled down the mountain two years ago is still there today. Jones was one of the first on scene at the rock slide outside Dolores, but he may have felt it before he saw it.

"I think it was 2.8 on the Richter scale out at the site at Mesa Verde," said Jones. "When I first saw it, when I topped the little hill over here, I pretty much thought to myself, what has just happened?"

When the boulder fell onto Colorado Highway 145 outside Dolores, it also shook up tourism a little bit when they decided to build the road around the fallen boulder instead of blow it up.

Credit: KUSA

"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."

Lisak fields lots of rock-related questions. Even when someone unexpected asks about it.

RELATED: A 'large boulder the size of a small boulder' rolled onto Highway 145, and the internet had questions

RELATED: That huge rock that fell on a Colorado highway is officially a landmark now

"When I heard that Governor [Jared] Polis was coming, I was actually pleasantly surprised," said Lisak. "They had to rebuild the road a little around it and then rebuild the powerline."

The governor came to Dolores to open the new Point of Interest on the side of the highway. Memorial Rock is here to stay. 

"The governor came down, presented the road signs that are now installed on the highway that mark memorial rock," said Jones. "It dug a big trench across the highway. Completely took the highway out."

Credit: 9NEWS

Down the road in Cortez, the experts know the rock isn't good for a whole lot more than a selfie. 

"The rock up there is sandstone," said Sharon Sanchez, one of the owners of San Juan Gems. "I think people are interested in it when they go past it, as far as coming here as a destination, I kind of doubt that they do."

She couldn't sell that type of rock in her store, but it's still good for business in the area. 

"Too bad there’s not a ladder to get on top of that rock. It’d be nice to have a picnic up there," joked Lisak. "People will still come around and ask, hey, there’s a big rock somewhere above Dolores. "I give them directions on how to get here."

FAST FACTS

  • The state estimated that leaving the rock saved taxpayers about $200,000.
  • The Colorado Department of Transportation said it took about $1.1 million to fix up the damaged road and guardrail.
  • A second boulder weighing about 2.3 million pounds also fell but was destroyed.
  • Technically, the boulder sits on private land, so the state does not want you to stop and take pictures with it.
  • The boulder is close to mile marker 21 on Highway 145, near Dolores.

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