Visiting the Beautiful Capitol Reef National Park in Utah
Following our sightseeing in Zion and Bryce National Parks, my mother's, niece's and my next national park destination in Utah was Capitol Reef while on our vacation trip in July of 1991. It is a must see destination for sheer beauty and splendor.
We traveled through beautiful and rolling countryside on our way to Capitol Reef.
There is a great amount of open range land in Utah including on public lands and we saw many herds of roaming cattle. This is highly controversial because of the irreparable damage done by the cattle to the plant life and the land. One is constantly crossing cattle guards as one traverses the roads.
Anasazi Indian Village State Park
Another brief stop on our sojourn to Capitol Reef was the Anasazi Indian Village State Park. It is located in Boulder on the scenic byway 12. It is an archaeological site and was reportedly the home for about 200 Anasazi Indians around 1050 A.D. to 1200 A.D. A self-guided trail takes one through the site.
The Anasazi Indian Village was excavated by University of Utah participants in 1958 but because the area was unstable, it was covered. At that point in time, 87 rooms had been discovered. Stabilization and further excavation were again started in 1978.
No one truly knows the reason that the Anasazi Indian left that area, but when they left, it was burned.
Sightseeing in Capitol Reef
We checked in to the Wonderland Inn one mile east of Capitol Reef National Park and started our exploration of the park.
Capitol Reef was so named from a domed rock formation that resembles our nation's capitol building. It is at an elevation ranging from 3,900 feet to 8,800 feet. It can be quite hot in the summer daytime hours but cools off at night.
This area was once under an ancient sea and the very interesting and unusual rocks show evidence of solidified lapping water marks in some areas.
Very colorful rocks composed of limestone, sandstone and shale can be viewed throughout the park.
Just like in Zion National Park, the area was uplifted, the sea receded and due to the effects of erosion mainly due to water and ice, these spectacular cliffs and unusual formations were formed over eons of time.
Volcanic activity also has left evidence of past eruptions in the area west of here and transported into the park by glacial activity.
Around 700 to 1300 A.D. the Fremont Indians inhabited this place.
At that time there was much more water which facilitated the growing of crops. Over time the area became drier and perhaps that is why they left. No one knows the reason for sure.
In any case they left petroglyphs and evidence of their inhabiting the area.
The Fremont River still flows through the Fremont River Canyon and provides much needed water for the vegetation and birds and animals within the park.
Away from the river it becomes desert and anyone visiting the park should always have plenty of water to accompany one's explorations.
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park was designated as such in 1971 and it is comprised of 241,671 acres. Prior to that it was a National Monument.
A paved road was constructed through the park by the state of Utah in 1962 making the park more accessible. There is also a ten mile unpaved road through the park which takes one into very scenic areas.
We had rented a regular 4 door car and did take that unpaved road. At times it was quite bumpy and one had to avoid rocks in the road.
There was not much traffic at the time we were exploring and it was starting to get dark when we decided that we had better get out of that area. Thankfully we did not have a flat tire or other calamity.
I would recommend a four wheel drive vehicle for greater safety if taking this road. Hindsight is always 20 - 20! We made it and have some spectacular photos from this area of the park.
Early settlers within the park planted fruit orchards and they continue to flower and bear fruit to this day. The National Park Service maintains them for their historical importance.
The cliffs that are near Fruita help protect the orchards from the effects of severe weather and therefore they continue to thrive and bear fruit year after year.
My mother, niece and I picked apricots one day in Fruita, Utah. Large ladders are provided along with buckets in which to place the apricots. The trees were loaded with fruit and it was easy harvesting.
The particular day we were there everyone was on the honor system to pay for the fruit. One would bag up one's fruit and deposit the appropriate amount of money into a box before leaving. Prices were posted.
We picked enough to enjoy the succulent apricots for many days of our remaining vacation. There is nothing quite like fresh picked fruit for tasty snacking!
Many deer were roaming the grounds and were seen eating the fallen fruit. They were obviously used to many people within close proximity and appeared quite tame.
Some horses on the other side of the fenced orchard seemed appreciative of any fruit that happened to make it over the fence.
During the 1950s uranium mining was done within the park. Very little ore was mined as it had to be transported about 200 miles away for processing.
When government price supports were ended it became unprofitable to continue mining and the mines were closed.
One can still see some entries into the non-functioning mines but one is warned to stay away as the area is unstable and some radiation might still exist within the mines.
We saw two mine entrances from the road on our trip through the park.
Outlaws in Capital Reef
An interesting bit of folklore exists due to outlaws making Capitol Reef their home.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid have immortalized one of these outlaws of the past who used this as their refuge.
Supposedly the real Butch Cassidy was a kindly sort who acted more like Robin Hood. He did not purposely hurt anyone and never intentionally killed in the course of his crimes.
He and his associates knew every hiding spot within the area and knew the escape paths and trails intimately. The lawmen from that time were not so well versed and so for many years the outlaws thrived in this area.
The east side of the park and the roads leading that direction once outside the Capitol Reef National Park confines are also a thing to be enjoyed.
It continues to amaze me just how different the character of each of our National Parks is with respect to their uniqueness. I have to applaud our former Presidents and legislators who have set aside these public lands so that generations to come can enjoy their pristine beauty.
Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is definitely a must see destination!
One could spend much more time there than we did as there are many hiking trails and sights within the park to enjoy. One could spend weeks or months exploring if one only had the time.
But we were on our way to next explore Arches and Canyonlands National Parks with a stopover at Goblin Valley State Park on our two week adventure in Utah.
I am so glad that we got to see as much of this national park as we did.
Maps like this can be invaluable! We always like to have maps of the national parks that we choose to visit.
Great video of Capitol Reef National Park and Goblin State Park.
Would you like to visit Capitol Reef National Park?
© 2008 Peggy Woods