Nobody knows for sure how long Indian Head Rock has overlooked the area that is now Little River Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—perhaps millions of years. There was a growing fear, however, that the famous geological feature might end up as a pile of rubble on the pavement—maybe even with a car underneath it. The National Park Service called Rembco to keep the face in place.
“Indian Head Rock is an outcropping, about 50 feet above the road, that resembles the profile of an American Indian,” says Rembco’s estimating engineer Mike Bivens. “Due to erosive natural forces, the rock had become unstable. Essentially, the Park Service asked us to glue the face back together and nail it to the mountain behind. It was a challenging project.”
To begin with, Indian Head Rock is a notable landmark. Like a facelift operation for an aging movie star, the face had to be stabilized while maintaining its “natural look.” In addition, there had been recent rockfall events, leaving the current stability highly in question. Other challenges included performing overhead drilling at heights up to 100 feet above the road and working 24-hours a day. Furthermore, the project was schedule sensitive; Rembco would have to work around the park traffic that flowed under the landmark, with only a short window when the road could be closed entirely.
“We recommended a stabilization system that included three separate products,” says Rembco project manager James Grubbs. We used small rock bolts and polyurethane injections to glue the rock face back together. We also employed large rock bolts—top to bottom—to anchor the rock,” says Grubbs. “Those bolts, set as deep as 45 feet into the mountain, stabilized the face and slope below the rock. To complete the job,” Grubbs went on to say, “we sculpted and stained the more visible sections to match the natural contours and color of the rock.”
“Indian Head Rock has been stabilized—nose and all,” says James Grubbs, “and Little River Road is once again safe for travel. What’s more, we were able to complete the job with only one week of road closure, which was very important to our client.”
When it comes to soil stabilization, Rembco does it all: building foundations, rockslide and soil stabilizing, sinkhole remediation, controlling underground liquid migration—and even an occasional facelift. For evaluation of your project, call 865-363-4708.