By Steve Beauregard
It’s 42 miles, (or 67 kilometers), from Mesquite, Nevada to St. George Utah.
Google maps says it will take you 44 minutes to drive it. Having driven it a hundred times at least, I can vouch for that 44 minute estimate – unless you are in a hurry, in which case it seems like a much longer drive.
Mesquite sits on the far eastern end of Nevada and was a town seemingly designed to siphon off some tourist money from Las Vegas-bound drivers.
St. George, on the other hand, sits on the far western end of Utah, and was settled by Mormon Pioneers. In fact, it’s known as the winter home for LDS church founder Brigham Young.
Although connected by Interstate 15, the two towns are separated by both cultural norms and the massive Virgin River Gorge. Driving through this steep, winding canyon makes up the majority of the distance between Mesquite and St. George.
(Here’s a map showing you the Interstate 15 drive from Mesquite, Nevada to St. George, Utah.)
Driving from Mesquite to St. George
Traveling to St. George from Mesquite will be done entirely on Interstate 15, which, for this section, is also known as the Veterans Memorial Highway.
The interstate was completed in 1973. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, at the time it was completed, the Virgin River Gorge portion of the project, (including bridge construction, etc.) made it the most expensive interstate ever completed.
And yes, we said, “Arizona” Department of Transportation. That’s because – although it’s a fairly short distance between Mesquite and St. George – there’s a whole ‘nother state between the two towns. Specifically, you’ll travel 29 miles on Arizona soil when driving.
The Arizona border is just outside Mesquite’s city limits. After about ten miles of relatively flat desert terrain, you reach the entrance to the Virgin River Gorge.
From here, you’ll go uphill swiftly. Elevation of Mesquite is 1,601 feet above sea level, while in St. George it’s 2,860 feet.
Looking at the map, you’ll see this 29 stretch is really cut off from the rest of the state.
Lest you think that this is a speed-limit free zone, and that the Arizona Highway Patrol wouldn’t waste resources on a remote 29 mile stretch of road isolated from the rest of the state: think again. I’ve driven this section of road between Mesquite and St. George plenty of times and have seen a surprising number of Arizona Highway patrol vehicles, as well as drivers pulled over by said patrol for speeding.
And despite the fact this is an interstate in a very rural, remote area, and has two lanes in each direction, it can surprisingly get congested frequently. Part of this is the fact that ADOT says that 1.4 million commercial trucks traverse this section of I-15 each year. I can vouch for this, as all 1.4 million semi-trucks are in front of me every time I drive this road.
(Related: Distance from Las Vegas to St. George, Utah).
The congestion has other causes as well.
One: The speed limit through Virgin River canyon is annoyingly slow. (And this is coming from a guy who doesn’t drive fast). I don’t recall exactly what it is, but I want to say that – due to curves as such – it’s often in the 35 mile per hour range.
On top of that, It’s an uphill drive, and the canyon walls are steep and towering over both sides of the interstate. It can give you a little bit of claustrophobia. My point is that between the uphill climb, endless curves, slow speed limit, heavy commercial traffic, and seemingly narrow passage, the traffic typically moves fairly slowly in this portion of the drive from Mesquite to St. George.
In addition to the 8 wheeler traffic, there’s plenty of St. George residents who commute to Mesquite for either work, and/or play, which also adds to congestion issues.
With a population growing to now over 150,000 residents, the St. George and the Washington Utah areas make up a big customer base and employment base for Mesquite casinos.
There are many people who work in Mesquite, but choose to make the roughly 45 minute daily commute back home to St. George for quality of life reasons.
In addition, Mesquite attracts a lot of gamblers from St. George, both in terms of tourists to St. George, as well as locals. I’ve played numerous times in the poker rooms in Mesquite (although there is only one now), where I struck up conversation with a fellow player who lived in St. George and was driving home after the game.
Because of very mild weather in this region, (it will very rarely snow in the gorge), the drive from Mesquite to St. George is relatively easy, safe and scenic and will take you about ¾ of an hour to get there. (Photos courtesy of Ken Lund via Flickr.)