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April 7, 2018

Capitol Reef

by Rosemary West

Capitol Reef National Park got its name from the way early settlers perceived its geological features. "Capitol" because they thought the white sandstone domes looked like the capitol building in Washington, DC. "Reef" because the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long ridge, was a barrier to travel, like a coral reef.

Image of white sandstone dome backed by blue sky.

Long tall ridge of red spiky stone.

Ancient hunter-gatherers lived here thousands of years ago, and left their paintings and etchings on the rocks.

$300 fine for writing on rocks.
If happened 1000 years ago, it's a petroglyph. If it happened last week, it's a crime.

Ancient petroglyph drawings of animals.

Ancient petroglyph drawings of people.

In the 1800s, Mormon farmers settled here and planted orchards. The orchards, as well as some of the buildings and old farm tools, are preserved in the park. In season, tourists can pick and eat fruit here. Clearly, this wasn't the season. Even the snack bar was closed. We were glad we had brought a picnic lunch.

The orchard in winter.

An old harvesting tool.

A barn and horses.

The eight-mile Scenic Drive winds through some very dramatic landscape.

View of a huge rocky cloff face.

Tall red rock ridges.

Big red mountain with blue sky and white clouds.

A long cliff made up of different colored layers.

The strata (stripes) are rock layers that were created by sediment deposited here over millions of years. Different kinds of sediment reflect different climates and environmental conditions. Tectonic forces lifted this region several thousand feet. Because of the Waterpocket Fold, the west side was lifted about 7,000 feet higher than the east side.

The area was carved out by water erosion, assisted by gravity, revealing the layers. Different kinds of mineral content create different colors and textures. Both red and green are caused by iron; red indicates a dry environment, and green indicates swampy conditions. As well as having different colors, the layers also have different textures, and tend to erode at different rates, creating some very interesting shapes.

A rock formation with red and white layers showing different textures.

Columnar formations with darker and lighter red layers.

A white sandstone dome.

A craggy-looking cliff with red and beige colors.

A large cliff face with some partly-formed arches.

Vegetation also contributes to rock erosion.

Rocks with cracks created by tree roots.

The camera is level. The landscape is at an angle as a result of tectonic uplift.

Striped cliffs tilting upwards.

Wide shot of an upward-tilting landscape.

Several different angled rock formations.

No matter which way we looked, the scenery was spectacular.

A wide landscape of mountains, desert, and rocks.

Another wide landscape of mountains, desert, and rocks.

A large cliff face with red and white strata.

Columnar rock formations with red stripes.

A high ridge, mostly beige, topped with red.

A distant mountain topped by a castle-like rock formation.

Here is a short video showing the landscape around the Capitol Gorge picnic area and trailhead.

(Videos may not be displayed on some mobile devices or in some email apps. The video will be visible on the desktop version of the website.)

This was our third national park in three days. We planned to go to the fourth (Bryce Canyon) the next day. Sometimes plans have to be changed.


Note: We were here in February.

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1 comment >>

  1. Incredible scenery, thanks for posting this.

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