1937: National Monument
Rating (1-5): Unrated
About the SiteThe Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long wrinkle in the earth's crust, extends from nearby Thousand Lakes Mountain to the Colorado River (which is now Lake Powell). Capitol Reef National Park was established to protect this grand and colorful geologic feature, as well as the unique historical and cultural history found in the area.
The Waterpocket Fold defines Capitol Reef National Park. A nearly 100-mile long twist in the Earth's crust, the Waterpocket Fold is a monocline: a regional fold with one very steep side in an area of otherwise nearly horizontal layers. A monocline is a "step-up" in the rock layers. The rock layers on the west side of the Waterpocket Fold have been lifted more than 7000 feet higher than the layers on the east. Major folds are almost always associated with underlying faults. The Waterpocket Fold formed between 50 and 70 million years ago when a major mountain building event in western North America, the Laramide Orogeny, reactivated an ancient buried fault. When the fault moved, the overlying rock layers were draped above the fault and formed a monocline.
What You're Going to SeeCapitol Reef has much more to offer than just natural beauty. The orchards that lie within a mile or two of the Visitor Center are the most obvious remnant of the pioneer community of Fruita, which was settled in 1880. Usually no more than 10 families lived in Fruita at any one time, and the last resident moved away in 1969. Early settlers planted the orchards to insure subsistence. Today, the orchards are preserved and protected as a Rural Historic Landscape. The orchards hold approximately 2,700 trees and are composed of cherry, apricot, peach, pear, and apple, as well as, a few plum, mulberry, almond, and walnut trees. The National Park Service now owns and maintains the orchards with a 2-person orchard crew that is kept busy year round with pruning, irrigation, and orchard management.
At certain times of the year, visitors can pick the fruit for a nominal fee, or even for free.
Personal ObservationsI was going to visit Capitol Reef in the summer of 2004. But, the Suburban decided to blow a tire and then blow the brakes, resulting in a five-hour visit to Escalante. It's a very nice town, with an extremely helpful mechanic at the gas station. I eventually got the Suburban towed to Cedar City and I never saw Capitol Reef.
But someday ...
Getting ThereThe best way to visit Capitol Reef is to make it a part of a Great Circle of the Southwest extravaganza, much as I was doing in the summer of 2004. In other words, start at Zion and go east, through Capitol Reef, to Arches and beyond. But to get there directly from Salt Lake City or Colorado or Las Vegas, in other words from practically anywhere, take I-70 to the middle of Utah and get off at exit 89 at Fremont Junction. Take Highway 72 south for about 30 miles to Highway 24, and take that east. The Park is about 20 miles away.
Nearby AttractionsArches NP, Canyonlands NP, and Natural Bridges NM are all to the east (north to south), and all worth visiting. Glen Canyon NRA is directly southeast, and it includes Rainbow Bridge NM; and beyond that is Monument Valley, straddling the border of Arizona and Utah. Grand Staircase-Escalante NM is directly south, and Vermilion Cliffs NM is directly south of that. Bryce Canyon NP, Zion NP, and Cedar Breaks NM are all to the southwest. Folks, you've just got to see most if not all of these parks. They're fantastic.