Capitol Reef National Park — Utah, August 12-15

We spent two days getting from Bryce Canyon Nat’l Park to Capitol Reef Nat’l Park, stopping for an overnight at Escalante, where we enjoyed the sunset painting the cliffs to the northeast.  Next day, we took Hwy 12, described (deservedly) as one of the most scenic highways in America.  We found Capitol Reef National Park to be a lovely place, quiet and peaceful in the campgrounds and scenic beyond description in the surrounding Park.  No sooner had we arrived than we were joined by Janice & Steve in their camper “Sloth”, who took some time off from their duties at Bryce.  We hiked together and enjoyed sharing some meals and more card-playing.  We all picked some apples, and Janice made another of her delicious desserts.

Here are some (heavily) edited words from Wikipedia:


Capitol Reef encompasses the Waterpocket Fold, a warp in the earth’s crust that is 65 million years old.  In this fold, newer and older layers of earth folded over each other in an S-shape. This warp has weathered and eroded over millennia to expose layers of rock and fossils. The park is filled with brilliantly colored sandstone cliffs, gleaming white domes, and contrasting layers of stone and earth.

The area was named for a line of white domes and cliffs of Navajo Sandstone, each of which looks somewhat like the United States Capitol building, that run from the Fremont River to Pleasant Creek on the Waterpocket Fold.

The fold forms a north-to-south barrier that early settlers referred to as “reefs”, from which the park gets the second half of its name. The first paved road was constructed through the area in 1962. Today, State Route 24 cuts through the park traveling east and west between Canyonlands National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, but few other paved roads invade the rugged landscape.

The park is filled with canyons, cliffs, towers, domes, and arches. The Fremont River has cut canyons through parts of the Waterpocket Fold, but most of the park is arid desert country.

Freemont culture Native Americans lived near the perennial Fremont River in the northern part of the Capitol Reef Waterpocket Fold around 1000 CE.  In the 13th century, all of the Native American cultures in this area underwent sudden change, likely due to a long drought. The Fremont settlements and fields were abandoned.

Many years after the Fremont left, Paiutes moved into the area.

In the 1870s, Mormon settlers moved into these valleys, eventually establishing a number of settlements.  In the 1880s they settled the Freemont River valley in the 1880s and established Junction (later renamed Fruita), Caineville and Aldridge. Fruita prospered, Caineville barely survived, and Aldridge died.

By 1920 the work was hard but the life in Fruita was good. No more than ten families at one time were sustained by the fertile flood plain of the Fremont River and the land changed ownership over the years. The area remained isolated. The community was later abandoned and later still some buildings were restored by the National Park Service.


The many orchards planted by Mormon pioneers are maintained by the Park Service and different fruit can be harvested throughout the growing season by visitors.  We just missed the peaches, but were there for the yellow apples.  We were told that there was no charge for fruit eaten while in the park, and the charge for fruit taken away is a nominal one dollar per pound.  We did some of both.   🙂

There are many spectacular Nat’l Parks in this area of Utah, but I think Capitol Reefs is our favorite so far.