~ Capitol Reef National Park ~

"Capitol" for the white domes of Navajo Sandstone that resemble capitol building domes, and "Reef" for the rocky cliffs which are a barrier to travel, like a coral reef. Nearly 10,000 feet of sedimentary strata are found in the Capitol Reef area. These rocks range in age from Permian (as old as 270 million years old) to Cretaceous (as young as 80 million years old.) The Waterpocket Fold has tilted this geologic layer cake down to the east. The older rocks are found in the western part of the park, and the younger rocks are found near the east boundary.

The Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long wrinkle in the earth's crust known as a monocline, extends from nearby Thousand Lakes Mountain to the Colorado River (now Lake Powell). The Waterpocket Fold is a classic 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. Capitol Reef National Park was established to protect this grand and colorful geologic feature, as well as the unique natural and cultural history found in the area.

On August 2, 1937, in Proclamation 2246, President Roosevelt set aside 37,711 acres of the Capitol Reef area, making it a National Monument. These Depression years were lean ones for the National Park Service (NPS), the new administering agency. Funds for the administration of Capitol Reef were nonexistent; it would be a long time before the first rangers would arrive. By 1970, Capitol Reef National Monument comprised 254,251 acres and stretched southeast from Thousand Lake Mountain almost to the Colorado River. The action was locally controversial, and NPS staffing at the monument was inadequate to properly manage the additional land. The legislation - "An Act to Establish The Capitol Reef National park in the State of Utah" - became Public Law 92-207 when it was signed by President Nixon on December 18, 1971.

Source: NPS website

The Waterpocket Fold

The road goes down into the Waterpocket Fold

Visitor Center
Still under the influence of the Labor Day weekend, the park was fairly busy
The western edge of the Waterpocket Fold

The Behunin Cabin

In 1882, Elijah Cutler Behunin and his family built this cabin and stayed a brief time until the rising river washed out their crops. Behunin was one of the first settlers in the area.
A family of ten lived here. Braided rugs covered the dirt floor and ends of dress material became curtains. There was a fireplace to cook in and a water supply near the door.
Elijah and his wife and the two smallest children slept in the cabin. The older boys slept in a widened out dugout in the cliff and the girls slept in a wagon box. It was not a comfortable way of life.
The cabin was no more than fifteen feet by twenty.

Swiss cheese rock
Solution Cavities: Smooth craters pock the canyon walls. Most of the rock is sandstone, which is grains of sand weakly cemented by water-soluble minerals. Where water seeps between layers, it may dissolve the cement, forming cavaties which catch more moisture. The cliff becomes pitted and pocked like weathered bone.

The Grand Wash

Navajo Dome in center

On left is another view of Navajo Dome and on right is Capitol Dome.
Navajo and Capitol Domes are small remnants from an ancient, Sahara-like desert. Vast, shifting dunes were deeply buried by more recent sediments, which were deposited in wetter environments. Water-borne minerals cemented the sand and pressure from the overlyinng layers compacted it into Sandstone.
Exposed again by uplift and erosion, the Navajo Sandstone has been sculpted by the elements into these magnificent domes and pinnacles.

The Fremont River
A section of the Hickman Bridge Trail is by the wall running along the river in the right photo.

On the left is Pectol's Pyramid. Right is a family on the Hickman Bridge Trail. The black boulders along the trail consist of the same andesite lava that caps the flat-topped mountains west of the park. They were transported here, and rounded in the process, by large debris flows from the flanks of the peaks. These flows were associated with the melting of high elevation glaciers in recent geologic time.

Navajo Dome on the left and a Mountain sheep on the right. These photos were taken on the way up the trail and the sheep was still sunning in the same spot, when I came back down an hour later.

The Hickman Bridge Trail runs past traces of prehistoric Indian life and under the Hickman Natural Bridge, which has a 133 foot span and is 125 feet high.

These are better views of Capitol Dome (left) and Pectal's Pyramid

I took the left photo more for the sky than the cliff. The photo on the right was taken on the way back down the trail. Arvie is right of center and the wall of the trail is visible in the lower right.

I cannot seem to be able to resist purple wildflowers


The area of Capitol Reef National Park has been a homeland to people for thousands years. Archaic hunters and gatherers migrated though the canyons. The Fremont Culture solidified around 500 A.D., from food foraging groups to farmers of corn, beans and squash. Fremont populations peaked in the 1200s. These farmers transformed again in the fourteenth century. Petroglyphs etched in rock walls and painted pictographs remain as sacred remnants of the ancient Indians' saga. Explorers, Mormon pioneers and others arrived in the 1800's. They too left their inscriptions on rock walls. This was there home. Ten Mormon families settled what is now the Fruita Rural Historic District. They planted and nurtured orchards of apples, pears and peaches.

Several other figures were destroyed by natural rockfall in early 1952. The area of the rockfall is in the photo on the right.

Mountain sheep, imposing anthropomorphic (human-like) figures and geometrical shapes are pecked into the face of the cliff. These markings were created by people referred to as the Fremont Indians, ancestors to various modern Indian tribes living in the American Southwest. Over 1,000 years ago, the Fremont Indians were the valley's first settlers, building homes and farming here.
Hopi ans Zuni people tell us that these petroglyphs record the travels, activities and ceremonial observances of their ancestral clans. The petroglyphs, they say, also tell of the supernatural kachinas who provide precious rain, gifts and spiritual guidance for the people. Much more that simple drawings or "rock art," the markings are the historical and spiritual legacy of modern Indian peoples, whose roots grow deep in this country's past.

Grand Wash: In this rugged area, moisture may be difficult to imagine, yet Capitol Gorge is scoured, pitted and stained by water.
Flashflood: An inch of rain from a storm over Miners Mountain can become a surging rush of water when funneled into the gorge. Floods often roar through with little warning. The next day the canyon may be dry as if the flood never happened. But wood debris is jammed in cracks high overhead, and the sand and boulders of the canyon floor are redically rearranged.
In several places the road and the wash followed the same route. I was thankful no rain was in sight.

On the right is the gorge that forces rain water into a narrow channel causing the flash flooding of the Grand Wash. The Grand Wash runs for several miles through the park before joining the Fremont River.

I counted fifteen deer in the field. Some of these photos are sort of fuzzy, because it was not very light out and the deer stayed until after dark. After takinng a bite from the apple, the deer above posed for me.

The Gifford Farmhouse and Panorama Point

The Gifford Farmhouse gives a glimpse of the early Fruita area. Mormon settlers first arrived in this sheltered valley in the 1880s. They cleared boulders, dug irrigation ditches, planted gardens and fruit trees. Several of the orchards remain today and descendants of the original residents live near the park.

This Chinese wisteria is in rehab. It was planted as an ornamental in the early 1900s. It was used for decades as a living swing for both residents and visitors. Many poeple brought their children and grandchildren to play on this historic vine and take photos. This activity became a tridition for some, but, unfortunately, the health of the vine was compromised.
Remarkably, a few leaves emerged from its base in 2010, a tenacious sign of life. The vine is now protected and there is hope that it will revive and flourish again. The vine runs high into the trees.

The Castle: The Castle and each colorful layer beneath are remnants of former landscapes. During the 35 million years that these sediments accumulated, gradually being pressed and cemented into solid rock, the climate was changing. Where now are dry cliffs, there were huge deserts and warm shallow waters patrolled by reptiles and amphibians.
The orange-red rocks of Wingate Sandstone are solidified dunes. The grey-green and purple layers of the Chinle Formation were deposited as volcanic ash drifting down on a low floodplain. Forests of conifers washed into swamps and became petrified wood.

This line of cliffs is part of the west face of the Waterpocket Fold. Beyond this ragged escarpment the fold slopes steeply to the east -- a narrow, hundred mile warp in the earth's crust created when the Rocky Mountains were formed. The later uplift of the Colorado Plateau exposed this tilted section of rock strata to the elements.
The best visibility in the lower 48 states is on the Colorado Plateau. The average summer visual range is 145 miles at Capitol Reef National Park. But a warning has been sounded; degradation of air quality mars visitor enjoyment at nearby Grand Canyon.
Scientists have identified air pollution from local sources, as well as from southern California and southern Arizona as a cause of dimished views on the Colorado Plateau. The air polution must be resolved, not only to preserve national park scenic values, but to ensure the health of the planet.

A fault exists on the right edge of the grey rocks in the center of the photo on the left. The fault has offset the levels of the cliffs by 165 feet.
I recently came upon a quote:
"Not to have known--as most men have not--either the mountain or the desert is not to have known oneself." ~ Joseph Ward Krutch
I'm learning.

Music is "Breathe"

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