Rock 'the size of a house' near Colorado highway will stay becoming 'Memorial Rock'

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DOLORES, Colo. (KKTV) - Most of Colorado's natural tourist attractions have been around for millennia.

Photo courtesy: San Miguel Sheriff's Office. A boulder the size of a house was part of a rockslide that destroyed a Colorado highway.

But this one is brand new.

The infamous house-sized boulder that tumbled down a hillside and next to a highway during the Memorial Day weekend will now become a brand new landmark, Gov. Jared Polis announced Tuesday via Twitter.

"Everybody meet Memorial Rock.

We will not be destroying this 8.5-million-pound boulder -- which is the size of a house. Instead, we’re going to make a new state landmark and save taxpayers money."

The boulder was part of a huge rockslide that destroyed a stretch of of Highway 145 in southwestern Colorado May 24, leaving crews with a daunting cleanup job. Not one, but two building-sized boulders came down in the slide, weighing a combined 11 million pounds.

"It’s truly mind-boggling that something that big came down," said Mike McVaugh, CDOT Regional Transportation director for southwest Colorado.

Cleanup crews were dispatched immediately after the slide.

"They sent a plow truck out, they sent a supervisor out. They showed up on site and they were like, ‘That’s not going to work. We’ve got some really big rocks here. [The boulders] came off a cliff band about 850 feet above the highway," McVaugh told 11 News sister station CBS Denver.

CDOT further described the cleanup operation in a tweet May 25:

"A geo-technical crew conducted a ground and aerial investigation of the steep terrain earlier today and determined rock scaling is needed. A team has been airlifted to the “brow” of the ridgeline to clean and clear loose rock that has been found on the face of the ridge. Loose and unstable rock will also need to be cleared from the slope of the mountain. (Scaling is the removal of unstable and loose rock to prevent unpredictable rock fall.) Once the mitigation and scaling work is completed, a crew can then begin the process of drilling and blasting the two massive boulders."

The smaller of the two boulders at measly 2.5 million pounds was demolished a few days later.

"CDOT officials are extremely pleased with the outcome. Trucks immediately started hauling the fragments away," the department said after the detonation.

But because the even larger boulder landed on the east side of the roadway and is not actually blocking the road, government officials have decided to let it be -- giving the state a new tourist attraction, the 8.5-million-pound house-sized boulder.

The slide happened 12 miles north of Dolores. Highway 145 was closed between Cortez and Telluride for several days before reopening after a temporary bypass was constructed.