Capitol reef national park wiki

Capitol reef national park wiki DEFAULT

Utah National Parks

Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion: Five sculptural interpretations of the Colorado Plateau, cut with a big, slow chisel.

38˚ North on the Utah Map

Something good happened a while back at 38˚ north latitude. All five of the national parks in Utah are within a sandstone’s throw of it — in fact, you could drive through them all in a single overstimulated afternoon. (You could, but you shouldn’t. That’d be like sprinting through the Louvre.)

Over 150 million years the soft-ish stone sediments in these five spots relented in weird, beautiful ways, cutting open a color spectrum of reds, pinks, yellows, grays and whites, all dappled with green. It’s called the Grand Staircase, but you could think of it as a peeling painting, a dozen layers on display from Bryce to the Grand Canyon.

ACalifornia CondoRBeds in Zion

That’s not only true (they’re not extinct after all!), it’s a helpful mnemonic for remembering the Utah national parks from east to west:

Arches →

The Holey Land (See: Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, Fiery Furnace)

Canyonlands →

The slow work of merciless rivers (See: Grand View Point, Horseshoe Canyon, how tough you are)

Capitol Reef →

A snag in the earth’s crust, 100 miles long (See: Waterpocket Fold, historic Fruita)

Bryce Canyon →

Sometimes-snowy erosions, elevated (See: Navajo Loop, Fairyland Point/Loop)

Zion →

The oldest, the most visited (See: Subway, Angels Landing, your life flash before your eyes)

Museums of Ancient Art

Michelangelo wasn’t bad; Rembrandt made nice pictures; and Kahlo had some interesting ideas; but the Earth’s greatest masterpieces weren’t made by human hands. And they’re all in southern Utah.

It’s a reddish-orangey-pink swath of a United State that’s eroded in audacious ways. New York’s got the Museum of Modern Art; Utah has FIVE museums of ancient art. Climb through a hole punched in a mountain, hike through a slot canyon, kayak the Colorado River and explore Bryce Canyon’s rock opera. It’s art appreciation... in hiking boots.





The Mighty 5

Be PreparedReview responsible travel tips and local COVID-19 guidelines.Learn more

Each national park anchors a travel region that beckons travelers to immerse themselves in not only the iconic national park, but the state parks, national monuments and small towns that weave texture into Southern Utah. Explore our resources to learn how you can maximize your experience, while minimizing your impact on delicate landscapes. 

Prepare to VisitNational Parks in Winter

Utah's National Parks

How to Visit Utah's National Parks

Written by Ryan Coons

3 minute read

Get the most out of a visit to Utah’s parks and monuments, while also ensuring they stay Forever Mighty, by following these tips.

Support Local, Responsible Travel

Learn more

  • Winter in Arches National Park

    Skip the crowded peak season and embrace the quiet of a winter visit to Arches National Park. Enjoy winter hikes, scenic drives and some of the best stargazing in the world.

  • Winter in Bryce Canyon National Park

    See red rock hoodoos coated with a dusting of snow against a stunning scenic backdrop on an unforgettable winter visit to Bryce Canyon National Park. With elevations of up to 9,100 feet and an average winter snowfall of nearly 100 inches, there is plenty of winter to be found at this high-elevation scenic wonder.

  • Winter in Canyonlands National Park

    As the largest national park in Utah, Canyonlands provides a variety of winter adventures, including winter hiking and stargazing.

  • Winter in Capitol Reef National Park

    Towering red rocks dusted in snow, often set against bright blue skies, welcome winter visitors to Capitol Reef National Park. Soak up incredible views along the park’s scenic drive or gear up and head out on a wintry hike.

  • Winter in Zion National Park

    Winter visitors to Zion National Park will find plenty to do, including hiking, photography and gazing up at the wonders of the night sky.

"Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone."

– Wendell Berry

  • 6 Days

    The Complete Zion Trip

    Tucked into the southwest corner of Utah, Zion National Park is the centerpiece for a 6-day red-rock vacation that includes a little bit of everything that makes the state such a marvel to experience.

    Ghost Towns, Hiking, Scenic Drives/Road Trips

    See Itinerary

  • 5 Days

    The Complete Capitol Reef Trip

    Planning a trip to Capitol Reef National Park? Explore these local-favorite destinations in the Capitol Reef region to make the most of your trip!

    Hiking, Scenic Drives/Road Trips

    See Itinerary

  • 5 Days

    The Complete Canyonlands Trip

    The Canyonlands Region of Utah combines the best of the Moab area's easy proximity to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park's most accessible district with some of the United State's most remote and culturally significant landscapes.

    Hiking, Scenic Drives/Road Trips

    See Itinerary

  • 4 Days

    The Complete Bryce Canyon Trip

    Planning a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park? Explore these local-favorite destinations in the Bryce Canyon region to make the most of your trip!

    Hiking, Scenic Drives/Road Trips

    See Itinerary

  • 4 Days

    The Complete Arches Trip

    Discover a new side of Arches National Park with this four day itinerary. Start exploring the hidden gems in the Arches region today.

    Hiking, Scenic Drives/Road Trips

    See Itinerary

  1. Riva yamaha
  2. Every man jack hair paste
  3. Continental cross contact

Capitol Reef National Park

National park in Utah, United States

Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park.jpg

Capitol Reef National Park

Map showing the location of Capitol Reef National Park
Map showing the location of Capitol Reef National Park

Location in the United States

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Map showing the location of Capitol Reef National Park
Map showing the location of Capitol Reef National Park

Location in Utah

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LocationWayne, Garfield, Sevier, and Emery counties, Utah, United States
Nearest cityTorrey
Coordinates38°12′N111°10′W / 38.200°N 111.167°W / 38.200; -111.167Coordinates: 38°12′N111°10′W / 38.200°N 111.167°W / 38.200; -111.167
Area241,904 acres (978.95 km2)
670 acres (270 ha) private[1]
EstablishedDecember 18, 1971
Visitors1,227,627 (in 2018)[2]
Governing bodyNational Park Service
WebsiteOfficial websiteEdit this at Wikidata

Capitol Reef National Park is an American national park in south-central Utah. The park is approximately 60 miles (97 km) long on its north–south axis and just 6 miles (9.7 km) wide on average. The park was established in 1971[3] to preserve 241,904 acres (377.98 sq mi; 97,895.08 ha; 978.95 km2) of desert landscape and is open all year, with May through September being the highest visitation months.

Partially in Wayne County, Utah, the area was originally named "Wayne Wonderland" in the 1920s by local boosters Ephraim P. Pectol and Joseph S. Hickman.[4] Capitol Reef National Park was designated a national monument on August 2, 1937, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to protect the area's colorful canyons, ridges, buttes, and monoliths; however, it was not until 1950 that the area officially opened to the public.[4] Road access was improved in 1962 with the construction of State Route 24 through the Fremont River Canyon.[5]

The majority of the nearly 100 mi (160 km) long up-thrust formation called the Waterpocket Fold—a rocky spine extending from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell—is preserved within the park. Capitol Reef is an especially rugged and spectacular segment of the Waterpocket Fold by the Fremont River.[5] The park was named for its whitish Navajo Sandstone cliffs with dome formations—similar to the white domes often placed on capitol buildings—that run from the Fremont River to Pleasant Creek on the Waterpocket Fold. Locally, reef refers to any rocky barrier to land travel, just as ocean reefs are barriers to sea travel.[6]


Capitol Reef encompasses the Waterpocket Fold, a warp in the earth's crust that is 65 million years old. It is the largest exposed monocline in North America. In this fold, newer and older layers of earth folded over each other in an S-shape. This warp, probably caused by the same colliding continental plates that created the Rocky Mountains, 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,[7] that run from the Fremont River to Pleasant Creek on the Waterpocket Fold.

The fold forms a north-to-south barrier that has barely been breached by roads. Early settlers referred to parallel impassable ridges as "reefs", from which the park gets the second half of its name. The first paved road was constructed through the area in 1962. 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. A scenic drive shows park visitors some highlights, but it runs only a few miles from the main highway. Hundreds of miles of trails and unpaved roads lead into the equally scenic backcountry.


Native Americans and Mormons[edit]

Petroglyph in Capitol Gorge

Fremont-culture Native Americans lived near the perennial Fremont River in the northern part of the Capitol Reef Waterpocket Fold around the year 1000. They irrigated crops of maize and squash and stored their grain in stone granaries (in part made from the numerous black basalt boulders that litter the area). In the 13th century, all of the Native American cultures in this area underwent sudden change, likely due to a long drought.[citation needed] The Fremont settlements and fields were abandoned.

Many years after the Fremont left, Paiutes moved into the area. These Numic-speaking people named the Fremont granaries moki huts and thought they were the homes of a race of tiny people or moki.

In 1872 Almon H. Thompson, a geographer attached to United States Army Major John Wesley Powell's expedition, crossed the Waterpocket Fold while exploring the area. Geologist Clarence Dutton later spent several summers studying the area's geology. None of these expeditions explored the Waterpocket Fold to any great extent.

Following the American Civil War, officials of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City sought to establish missions in the remotest niches of the Intermountain West. In 1866, a quasi-military expedition of Mormons in pursuit of natives penetrated the high valleys to the west. In the 1870s, settlers moved into these valleys, eventually establishing Loa, Fremont, Lyman, Bicknell, and Torrey.[5]

Mormons settled the Fremont River valley in the 1880s and established Junction (later renamed Fruita), Caineville, and Aldridge. Fruita prospered, Caineville barely survived, and Aldridge died.[5] In addition to farming, lime was extracted from local limestone, and uranium was extracted early in the 20th century. In 1904 the first claim to a uranium mine in the area was staked. The resulting Oyler Mine in Grand Wash produced uranium ore.

By 1920 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.[5] The community was later abandoned and later still some buildings were restored by the National Park Service. Kilns once used to produce lime are still in Sulphur Creek and near the campgrounds on Scenic Drive.

Early protection efforts[edit]

Local Ephraim Portman Pectol organized a "booster club" in Torrey in 1921. Pectol pressed a promotional campaign, furnishing stories to be sent to periodicals and newspapers. In his efforts, he was increasingly aided by his brother-in-law, Joseph S. Hickman, who was the Wayne County High School principal. In 1924, Hickman extended community involvement in the promotional effort by organizing a Wayne County-wide Wayne Wonderland Club. That same year, Hickman was elected to the Utah State Legislature.[8]

In 1933, Pectol was elected to the presidency of the Associated Civics Club of Southern Utah, successor to the Wayne Wonderland Club. The club raised U.S. $150 (equivalent to $2,999 in 2020) to interest a Salt Lake City photographer in taking a series of promotional photographs. For several years, the photographer, J. E. Broaddus, traveled and lectured on "Wayne Wonderland".[8]

In 1933, Pectol was elected to the legislature and almost immediately contacted President Franklin D. Roosevelt and asked for the creation of "Wayne Wonderland National Monument" out of the federal lands comprising the bulk of the Capitol Reef area. Federal agencies began a feasibility study and boundary assessment. Meanwhile, Pectol guided the government investigators on numerous trips and escorted an increasing number of visitors. The lectures of Broaddus were having an effect.[8]

Roosevelt signed a proclamation creating Capitol Reef National Monument on August 2, 1937.[9] In Proclamation 2246, President Roosevelt set aside 37,711 acres (15,261 ha) of the Capitol Reef area. This comprised an area extending about two miles (3.2 km) north of present State Route 24 and about 10 mi (16 km) south, just past Capitol Gorge. The Great 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.[5]

Administration of the monument[edit]

Administration of the new monument was placed under the control of Zion National Park.[8] A stone ranger cabin and the Sulphur Creek bridge were built and some road work was performed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration. Historian and printer Charles Kelly came to know NPS officials at Zion well and volunteered to watchdog the park for the NPS. Kelly was officially appointed custodian-without-pay in 1943.[8] He worked as a volunteer until 1950, when the NPS offered him a civil-service appointment as the first superintendent.[8]

During the 1950s Kelly was deeply troubled by NPS management acceding to demands of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission that Capitol Reef National Monument be opened to uranium prospecting. He felt that the decision had been a mistake and destructive of the long-term national interest. It turned out that there was not enough ore in the monument to be worth mining.[8]

In 1958 Kelly got additional permanent help in protecting the monument and enforcing regulations; Park Ranger Grant Clark transferred from Zion. The year Clark arrived, fifty-six thousand visitors came to the park, and Charlie Kelly retired for the last time.[8]

During the 1960s (under the program name Mission 66), NPS areas nationwide received new facilities to meet the demand of mushrooming park visitation. At Capitol Reef, a 53-site campground at Fruita, staff rental housing, and a new visitor center were built, the latter opening in 1966.[5]

Visitation climbed dramatically after the paved, all-weather State Route 24 was built in 1962 through the Fremont River canyon near Fruita. State Route 24 replaced the narrow Capitol Gorge wagon road about 10 mi (16 km) to the south that frequently washed out. The old road has since been open only to foot traffic. In 1967, 146,598 persons visited the park. The staff was also growing.[5]

During the 1960s, the NPS purchased private land parcels at Fruita and Pleasant Creek. Almost all private property passed into public ownership on a "willing buyer-willing seller" basis.[5]

Preservationists convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson to set aside an enormous area of public lands in 1968, just before he left office. In Presidential Proclamation 3888 an additional 215,056 acres (87,030 ha) were placed under NPS control. By 1970, Capitol Reef National Monument comprised 254,251 acres (102,892 ha) and sprawled southeast from Thousand Lake Mountain almost to the Colorado River. The action was controversial locally, and NPS staffing at the monument was inadequate to properly manage the additional land.[5]

National park status[edit]

Tower and rock layers at Capitol Reef

The vast enlargement of the monument and diversification of the scenic resources soon raised another issue: whether Capitol Reef should be a national park, rather than a monument. Two bills were introduced into the United States Congress.[5]

A House bill (H.R. 17152) introduced by Utah Congressman Laurence J. Burton called for a 180,000-acre (72,800 ha) national park and an adjunct 48,000-acre (19,400 ha) national recreation area where multiple use (including grazing) could continue indefinitely. In the United States Senate, meanwhile, Senate bill S. 531 had already passed on July 1, 1970, and provided for a 230,000-acre (93,100 ha) national park alone. The bill called for a 25-year phase-out of grazing.[5]

In September 1970, United States Department of Interior officials told a house subcommittee session that they preferred about 254,000 acres (103,000 ha) be set aside as a national park. They also recommended that the grazing phase-out period be 10 years, rather than 25. They did not favor the adjunct recreation area.[5]

It was not until late 1971 that Congressional action was completed. By then, the 92nd United States Congress was in session and S. 531 had languished. A new bill, S. 29, was introduced in the Senate by Senator Frank E. Moss of Utah and was essentially the same as the defunct S. 531 except that it called for an additional 10,834 acres (4,384 ha) of public lands for a Capitol Reef National Park. In the House, Utah Representative K. Gunn McKay (with Representative Lloyd) had introduced H.R. 9053 to replace the dead H.R. 17152. This time, the House bill dropped the concept of an adjunct Capitol Reef National Recreation Area and adopted the Senate concept of a 25-year limit on continued grazing. The Department of Interior was still recommending a national park of 254,368 acres (102,939 ha) and a 10-year limit for grazing phase-out.[5]

S. 29 passed the Senate in June and was sent to the House. The House subsequently dropped its own bill and passed the Senate version with an amendment. Because the Senate was not in agreement with the House amendment, differences were worked out in Conference Committee. The Conference Committee issued their agreeing report on November 30, 1971. 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 Richard Nixon on December 18, 1971.[5]


According to the Köppen climate classification system, the Capitol Reef Visitor Center has a cold semi-arid climate (BSk).

Climate data for Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, 1991-2020 normals, extremes 1938-present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 69
Average high °F (°C) 40.6
Daily mean °F (°C) 30.5
Average low °F (°C) 20.5
Record low °F (°C) −9
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.56
Average snowfall inches (cm) 3.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)3.3 3.7 3.6 4.5 4.9 3.3 7.7 8.1 5.3 4.5 2.7 2.9 54.5
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)1.9 1.3 0.8 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 1.8 6.9
Source: NOAA[10][11]


Main article: Geology of the Capitol Reef area

Waterpocket Fold from the ISS

The area including the park was once the edge of a shallow sea that invaded the land in the Permian, creating the Cutler Formation.[12] Only the sandstone of the youngest member of the Cutler Formation, the White Rim, is exposed in the park. The deepening sea left carbonate deposits, forming the limestone of the Kaibab Limestone, the same formation that rims the Grand Canyon to the southwest.

During the Triassic, streams deposited reddish-brown silt that later became the siltstone of the Moenkopi Formation. Uplift and erosion followed. Conglomerate, followed by logs, sand, mud, and wind-transported volcanic ash, then formed the uranium-containing Chinle Formation.

The members of the Glen Canyon Group were all laid down in the middle- to late-Triassic during a time of increasing aridity. They include:

The San Rafael Group consists of four Jurassic-period formations, from oldest to youngest:

Streams once again laid down mud and sand in their channels, on lakebeds, and in swampy plains, creating the Morrison Formation. Early in the Cretaceous, similar nonmarine sediments were laid down and became the Dakota Sandstone. Eventually, the Cretaceous Seaway covered the Dakota, depositing the Mancos Shale.

Only small remnants of the Mesaverde Group are found, capping a few mesas in the park's eastern section.

Near the end of the Cretaceous period, a mountain-building event called the Laramide orogeny started to compact and uplift the region, forming the Rocky Mountains and creating monoclines such as the Waterpocket Fold in the park. Ten to fifteen million years ago, the entire region was uplifted much further by the creation of the Colorado Plateau. This uplift was very even. Igneous activity in the form of volcanism and dike and sillintrusion also occurred during this time.

The drainage system in the area was rearranged and steepened, causing streams to downcut faster and sometimes change course. Wetter times during the ice ages of the Pleistocene increased the rate of erosion.

Visiting the park[edit]

The closest town to Capitol Reef is Torrey, about 11 mi (18 km) west of the visitor center on Highway 24, slightly west of its intersection with Highway 12.[13] Its 2020 population is less than 300.[14] Torrey has a few motels and restaurants and functions as a gateway town to Capitol Reef National Park.[15] Highway 12, as well as a partially unpaved scenic backway named the Burr Trail, provide access from the west through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the town of Boulder.[13]


A variety of activities are available to tourists, both ranger-led and self-guided, including auto touring, hiking, backpacking, camping,[16] bicycling (on paved and unpaved roads only; no trails), horseback riding, canyoneering, and rock climbing.[17] The orchards planted by Mormon pioneers are maintained by the National Park Service. From early March to mid-October, various fruit—cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, or apples—can be harvested by visitors for a fee.[18]

Hiking and backpacking[edit]

A hiking trail guide is available at the visitor center for both day hikes and backcountry hiking. Backcountry access requires a free permit.[19][20]

Numerous trails are available for hiking and backpacking in the park, with fifteen in the Fruita District alone.[20] The following trails are some of the most popular in the park:

  • Cassidy Arch Trail: a very steep, strenuous 3.5 mi (5.6 km) round trip that leads into the Grand Wash to an overlook of the Cassidy Arch.[21][19]
  • Hickman Bridge Trail: a 2 mi (3.2 km) round trip leading to the natural bridge.[22]
  • Frying Pan Trail: an 8.8 mi (14.2 km) round trip that passes the Cassidy Arch, Grand Wash, and Cohab Canyon.[23]
  • Brimhall Natural Bridge: a popular, though strenuous, 4.5 mi (7.2 km) round trip with views of Brimhall Canyon, the Waterpocket Fold, and Brimhall Natural Bridge.[24]
  • Halls Creek Narrows: 22 mi (35 km) long and considered strenuous, with many side canyons and creeks; typically hiked as a 2-3 day camping trip.[25]

Auto touring[edit]

Visitors may explore several of the main areas of the park by private vehicle:

  • Scenic Drive: winds through the middle of the park, passing the major points of interest; the road is accessible from the visitor center to approximately 2 mi (3.2 km) into the Capitol Gorge.[26]
  • Notom-Bullfrog Road: traverses the eastern side of the Waterpocket Fold, along 10 mi (16 km) of paved road, with the remainder unpaved.[27]
  • Cathedral Road: an unpaved road through the northern areas of the park, that traverses Cathedral Valley, passing the Temples of the Sun and Moon.[27]


The primary camping location is the Fruita campground, with 71 campsites (no water, electrical, or sewer hookups), and restrooms without bathing facilities.[28] The campground also has group sites with picnic areas and restrooms.[29] Two primitive free camping areas are also available.[30]

See also[edit]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Park Service.

  • Harris, Ann G.; Tuttle, Esther; Tuttle, Sherwood D. (1997). Geology of national parks (Fifth ed.). Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co. ISBN .
  • Frye, Bradford J, NPS. From Barrier to Crossroads: An Administrative History of Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. Cultural Resources Selections. 12. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Intermountain Region. OCLC 44648779. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  • Reader's Digest (1993). Explore America: National parks. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest Association. ISBN .
  • United States National Park Service (1989). Capitol Reef : official map and guide. Washington, D.C.: Capitol Reef National Park, National Park Service, U.S. Dept. of the Interior. OCLC 649825634.
  • United States National Park Service. The National parks : index 2001-2003. Washington, D.C.: Office of Public Affairs and the Division of Publications, National Park Service. OCLC 53228516. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  1. ^"Listing of acreage as of December 31, 2011"(PDF). Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
  2. ^"NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  3. ^Randall, Laura (October 17, 2019). "Utah's Capitol Reef National Park is like Zion without the crowds". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  4. ^ abCharles Kelly (September 1, 1995). "The Fathers of Capitol Reef National Park". State of Utah. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  5. ^ abcdefghijklmno"History & Culture". Capitol Reef National Park. National Pak Service. Retrieved February 24, 2010.
  6. ^"Capitol Reef National Park – Geology". Capitol Reef National Park web site. U.S. National Park Service. 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2009.
  7. ^HC 70, Mailing Address; Torrey, Box 15; Us, UT 84775 Phone: 435-425-3791 Contact. "Frequently Asked Questions - Capitol Reef National Park (U.S. National Park Service)". Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  8. ^ abcdefgh"People". Capitol Reef National Park. National Park Service. Retrieved February 24, 2010.
  9. ^Proclamation 2246: Capitol Reef National Monument-Utah . August 2, 1937 – via Wikisource.50 Stat. 1856.
  10. ^"NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved June 12, 2021.
  11. ^"Summary of Monthly Normals 1991-2020". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved June 12, 2021.
  12. ^Kamola, Diane L.; Chan, Marjorie A. (1988). Sedimentary Geology. Elsevier B.V. pp. Volume 56, Issues 1–4, Pages 341–356.
  13. ^ ab"Capitol Reef National Park Maps: Brochure Map". National Park Service. February 6, 2017. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  14. ^"Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 4, 2021.
  15. ^"Where to stay near Capitol Reef, Utah". Howtobookyourtrip. Retrieved September 4, 2021.
  16. ^"Basic Information". National Park Service. October 4, 2019. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  17. ^"Outdoor Activities". Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  18. ^"Fruita Orchards". National Park Service. January 1, 2016. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  19. ^ ab"Trail Guide". National Park Service. February 24, 2015. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  20. ^ ab"Hiking and Backpacking". National Park Service. September 20, 2019. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  21. ^"Cassidy Arch Hiking Trail". Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  22. ^"Hickman Bridge Hiking Trail". Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  23. ^"Frying Pan Trail Hiking Trails". Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  24. ^"Brimhall Natural Bridge Hiking Trail". Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  25. ^"Halls Creek Narrows Hiking Trail". Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  26. ^"The Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef National Park". December 27, 2013. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  27. ^ ab"Roads". Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  28. ^"Fruita Campground". Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  29. ^"". Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  30. ^"Primitive Campsites". National Park Service. May 26, 2016. Retrieved June 5, 2018.

External links[edit]

  • Official websiteEdit this at Wikidata of the National Park Service
  • Capitol Reef National Park |Utah Office of Tourism
  • Capitol Reef Country Wayne County Tourism Services
  • Capitol Reef Natural History Association Support historical, cultural, scientific, interpretive and educational activities at Capitol Reef National Park.
  • Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. UT-77, "Capital Reef National Park Roads & Bridges, Along State Route 24 between Torrey & Cainesville, Torrey, Wayne County, UT", 6 photos, 4 color transparencies, 2 photo caption pages
Capitol Reef National Park (TRAVEL GUIDE) - Beautiful America Series - Episode# 5

Geology of the Capitol Reef area

The Waterpocket Foldis the major geographic feature in the area of the park. This view is from above Capitol Reef Scenic Drive looking back at the west face of the broken and eroded fold.
The Permianthrough Jurassicstratigraphy of the Colorado Plateauarea of southeastern Utahthat makes up much of the famous prominent rock formations in protected areas such as Capitol Reef National Parkand Canyonlands National Park. From top to bottom: Rounded tan domes of the Navajo Sandstone, layered red Kayenta Formation, cliff-forming, vertically-jointed, red Wingate Sandstone, slope-forming, purplish Chinle Formation, layered, lighter-red Moenkopi Formation, and white, layered Cutler Formationsandstone. Picture from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.

The exposed geology of the Capitol Reef area presents a record of mostly Mesozoic-aged sedimentation in an area of North America in and around Capitol Reef National Park, on the Colorado Plateau in southeastern Utah.

Nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 m) of sedimentary strata are found in the Capitol Reef area, representing nearly 200 million years of geologic history of the south-central part of the U.S. state of Utah. These rocks range in age from Permian (as old as 270 million years old) to Cretaceous (as young as 80 million years old.)[1] Rock layers in the area reveal ancient climates as varied as rivers and swamps (Chinle Formation), Sahara-like deserts (Navajo Sandstone), and shallow ocean (Mancos Shale).

The area's first known sediments were laid down as a shallow sea invaded the land in the Permian. At first sandstone was deposited but limestone followed as the sea deepened. After the sea retreated in the Triassic, streams deposited silt before the area was uplifted and underwent erosion. Conglomerate followed by logs, sand, mud and wind-transported volcanic ash were later added. Mid to Late Triassic time saw increasing aridity, during which vast amounts of sandstone were laid down along with some deposits from slow-moving streams. As another sea started to return, it periodically flooded the area and left evaporite deposits. Barrier islands, sand bars and later, tidal flats, contributed sand for sandstone, followed by cobbles for conglomerate, and mud for shale. The sea retreated, leaving streams, lakes and swampy plains to become the resting place for sediments. Another sea, the Western Interior Seaway, returned in the Cretaceous and left more sandstone and shale only to disappear in the early Cenozoic.

From 70 to 50 million years ago the Laramide orogeny, a major mountain building event in western North America, created the Rocky Mountains to the east. The uplift possibly acted on a buried fault to form the area's Waterpocket Fold. More recent uplift of the entire Colorado Plateau and the resulting erosion has exposed this fold at the surface only within the last 15 to 20 million years. Ice ages in the Pleistocene increased the rate of precipitation and erosion. The cracked upper parts of the Waterpocket Fold were especially affected and the fold itself was exposed and dissected.

Primary deposition of sediments[edit]

Some important concepts: A formation is a formally named and defined geologic unit with unique characteristics. Those characteristics were created during a largely unbroken period of time and result from the specific depositional environment that the formation was laid down in. A member is a minor unit in a formation and a bed is a distinct subunit of a member. Groups are sets of formations that are related in significant ways such as, for example, all being deposited during a dry period that lasted millions of years or as the result of an ocean periodically flooding the same area over millions of years.

The various kinds of unconformities are gaps in the geologic record. Such gaps can be due to a prolonged absence of deposition or due to subsequent erosion that removes previously deposited rock units. The following sections are ordered from oldest to youngest rock units in order to create a geologic history of events. This is the opposite order one would see in an actual cross section of the sediments because newer rock units are deposited on top of older ones per the law of superposition.

Cutler and Kaibab formations (Permian)[edit]

In early Permian time, Utah was on a continental shelf that was occasionally covered by a shallow arm of the Panthalassa Ocean.[2] That part of Laurasia was on a passive continental margin not unlike the current west coast of equatorial Africa. The resultant formations are part of the approximately 290- to 250-million-year-old Cutler Formation[3] (called a group locally)[4] Utah was nearly on the paleoequator while the first members of the Cutler Formation were deposited but it had migrated nearly to 10° north latitude by around 275 million years ago.[3] The Cutler records sedimentation during this time and is composed of four members (youngest to oldest):

Only the two sandstone members of the Cutler Formation, the Cedar Mesa and White Rim, are exposed in the park but they cannot be easily distinguished from each other and are thus often treated as a single stratigraphic unit there.[5] The White Rim and Cedar Mesa are composed of fossilized cross-bedded sand dunes that were likely deposited in an arid coastal environment that periodically flooded with sea water. Sand in these formations are somewhat sorted by size, well-rounded (worn by abrasion), and range from very fine- to medium-grained.[6]

Good outcrops of the locally 800 foot (240 m) thick Cedar Mesa and 420 foot (128 m) thick White Rim can be found in the bottom of Sulphur Creek and at the bottom of the Circle Cliffs outside the park's western border.[7] In other areas the Organ Rock Shale is between the Cedar Mesa and White Rim but it pinches out east of the park. Both the locally buried Elephant Canyon and missing Organ Rock are exposed in nearby Canyonlands National Park 60 miles (100 km) east (see geology of the Canyonlands area).

Later in Permian time, the Kaibab Sea invaded the land and laid down a limey ooze that later lithified to form the locally up to 200 foot (60 m) thick Kaibab Limestone.[8] This is the same light gray to white formation that rims the Grand Canyon to the southwest (see Geology of the Grand Canyon area). The lower parts of the Kaibab were interbedded with sand and silt before its main component, limestone, was converted into chert-rich dolomite by the intrusion of magnesium.[7] The formation contains fossils of invertebrates including brachiopods, bryozoans, crinoids, gastropods, and pelecypods. Outcrops of the cliff-forming Kaibab in Capitol Reef can only be seen in the deeper canyons located in the westernmost part of the park.[8] Retreat of the Kaibab Sea by the Mid Permian exposed its seabed to erosion, resulting in 100 foot (30 m) deep channels and the creation of a gap in the geologic record called an unconformity.[8]

Moenkopi Formation (Triassic)[edit]

Ripple marks in Moenkopi Formation rock

Local climatic conditions were wetter and more tropical in the Early Triassic than they were previously. In the Capitol Reef area the resulting Moenkopi Formation is divided into four members (from oldest to youngest):[6]

  • Black Dragon Member
  • Sinbad Limestone Member,
  • Torrey Member, and
  • Moody Canyon Member.

Distinctive exposures of the uppermost Moenkopi are along the lower slopes of the west-facing cliffs of the Waterpocket Fold. Uplift and subsequent partial erosion of the Moenkopi then created an approximately 6 million year long unconformity that lasted the entire Mid Triassic.[6]

Moenkopi Formation below Chinle on cliff above Capitol Reef Scenic Drive

The 50 to 110 foot (15 to 34 m) thick slope-forming Black Dragon is composed of reddish conglomerate, sandstone, and siltstone that were likely deposited on a coastal plain followed by a tidal flat.[6]Chert clasts from the underlying Kaibab Limestone make-up part of conglomerates at the member's base while ripple marks and mudcracks are common in its upper parts. Also common in the upper parts of the member are thin interbeds of carbonate rock with some fossils.[6]

Later in the early Triassic, fossil-rich to muddy limey ooze with small amounts of silt and sand were laid down as a short-lived arm of the ocean covered the region. This created the locally 70 to 140 foot (21 to 43 m) thick yellowish-colored Sinbad Limestone member of the Moenkopi.[6] Some of the fossils found in this layer include the brachiopod genus Lingula and the ammonite genus Meekoceras.[6]

A tidal flat briefly returned to the area after the sea retreated. This created the locally 250 to 320 foot (76 to 98 m) thick reddish-brown to chocolate colored siltstone and fine-grained sandstone of the Moenkopi's Torrey Member.[9] Some of the finer-grained beds display ripple marks and mudcracks while the sandstone has horizontal and low-angle crossbedding. Small to large fossilized track-ways from amphibians and reptiles are found in this layer as well as casts of halite.

The youngest member of the Moenkopi is the 320 to 430 foot (98 to 130 m) thick Moody Canyon Member. Moody Canyon is informally sub-divided into two units:[10]

  • a lower slope-forming 200 to 300 foot (60 to 90 m) thick unit of reddish-brown siltstone and
  • an upper cliff-forming 120 to 130 foot (37 to 40 m) thick unit of reddish-orange siltstone.

About 30 to 40% of the stone in the upper unit is ripple-laminated while the lower unit is structureless to horizontally laminated.[10] Good exposures of the ripple-laminated upper unit are found on the lower part of Egyptian Temple.

Chinle Formation (Triassic)[edit]

Chinle Formation section showing each member represented in the Capitol Reef area: Monitor Butte Member (m), the two units of the Petrified Forest Member (p) and the Owl Rock Member (o - partially obscured by overlaying Wingate rubble) (cropped image). Non-cropped version

A complex, relatively high velocity and likely braided stream system covered most of southern Utah in the Late Triassic. Various members of the resulting Chinle Formation are found over much of the Colorado Plateaus. Logs, sand, mud and wind-transported volcanic ash from distant eruptions were mixed by streams as they migrated over a subsiding basin to form the Chinle. Uranium salts accumulated in this formation in economically extractable quantities and petrified wood was formed (petrification was probably aided by the presence of volcanic ash).[7] Chinle members represented in the Capitol Reef area are (from oldest to youngest):[10]

  • Shinarump Member,
  • Monitor Butte Member,
  • Petrified Forest Member, and
  • Owl Rock Member.

Together they form the purple and orange rounded slopes and hills that are occasionally above white cliffs along the Waterpocket Fold's west face.[10]

Discontinuous beds of sediment were deposited in broad channels eroded into the Moenkopi, creating the locally 0 to 90 foot (0 to 27 m) thick white to yellowish gray cliff-forming Shinarump Member of the Chinle Formation.[10] The Shinarump is made of low to high-angle cross-stratified and friable fine to coarse-grained sandstone interbedded with conglomerate. Good outcrops of the Shinarump are found near the park's west entrance capping such features as the Egyptian Temple and Chimney Rock while all traces of this member are absent further east. Members above the Shinarump tend to be finer due to the slower speed of the streams that deposited them.[7]

A river system then migrated northward and transitioned into either a large lake or marsh. As this occurred, bentonite-rich clay (formed in part from volcanic ash erupted from nearby volcanoes) and clayey cross-bedded sand with some interbeds and lenses of lime ooze were laid down. This eventually became the light purplish-gray claystone, sandstone, and carbonate rock of the Chinle's Monitor Butte Member. Burrows that measure 5 inches (13 cm) in diameter and 5 feet (1.5 m) long were excavated by lungfish into the Monitor Butte.[10] This member easily stands out in the lower to middle slopes of the Waterpocket Fold's west face in such places as The Castle and along the cliff's just north of State Route 24 as it enters the park.

Very sinuous rivers covered the area in later Triassic time, forming the sediments of the Chinle's Petrified Forest Member. The Petrified Forest is composed of reddish-orange bentonite-rich cross-bedded siltstones and clayey fine-grained quartz sandstones. The lower part of this member forms gullied slopes and the upper part forms a resistant cliff called the 'Capitol Reef bed.' Carbonate nodules along with fossil bivalves, coprolites, marine snails, lungfish toothplates, and tetrapods are found in the Petrified Forest Member.[10]

Deposition from a series of lakes then dominate the geologic record, resulting in the locally 150 to 200 foot (45 to 60 m) thick Owl Rock Member of the Chinle.[10] The Owl Rock is made of purple and orange mudstones, fine-grained sandstones and siltstones with interbedded 1 to 10 foot (30 to 300 cm) thick green to mottled pink micritic and knobby limestone.[10] Fossilized desiccation mudcracks that are up to 4 inches (10 cm) wide and 3 feet (1 m) deep are found at the very top of the Owl Rock (they were later filled with sand from the overlying Wingate Sandstone).[10] Also found in the Owl Rock are trace fossils of cylindrical burrows and fossils of ostracodes. The Owl Rock erodes into littered slopes and is found directly below the Wingate Sandstone along the Waterpocket Fold's west face.

Glen Canyon Group (Triassic)[edit]

All three formations of the Glen Canyon Group were laid down in the Mid to Late Triassic during a time of increasing aridity. Slightly clockwise and northward movement of the North American Plate was bringing the area into a dryer climatic belt. The direction of cross-bedding in Glen Canyon Group sand dunes suggests that prevailing winds from the north transported the sand into the region.[3] Outcrops of the Glen Canyon Group's three formations are the most prominently exposed rock layers in the spine of the Waterpocket Fold.[7] Together they reach a thickness of 1,500 to 2,700 feet (460 to 820 m) in the area and their sandstones are seen in many of the arches, domes and slot canyons in Capitol Reef.[11] They are, from oldest (lowest) to youngest (highest);

Sand dunes migrated back and forth on the shore of the Sundance Sea, creating the 350 foot (107 m) thick cliff-forming Wingate Sandstone.[7] This formation is composed of orange-colored cross bedded fossilized sand dunes made of fine-grained and well-rounded quartz sand. Wingate outcrops are found capping the Waterpocket Fold's western escarpment. Prominent examples are easy to see near the Visitor Center in the Fruita Cliffs and in The Castle.

Double arch in Kayenta Formation (USGS).

The climate became more humid later in Triassic time. Slow-moving, southwestward flowing braided streams laid down thin-bedded layers of sand, silt, mud and cobbles in channels, across low flood plains and in lakes. Fossilized footprints of dinosaurs and the crocodile-like tritylodonts can be found in this 350 foot (107 m) thick ledgy-slope forming formation, called the Kayenta.[7] The Kayenta weathers into three units; a lower ledge and middle cliff that are dominated by cross-bedded sandstone and an upper slope that has relatively more siltstone. It is often difficult to spot the contact between the Windgate and Kayenta due to their similar color and grain size. One place where the contact is easiest to discern is west of State Route 24 along the Fremont River at mile marker 82.[11]

A massive Sahara-like desert geologists call an erg then invaded the area, covering it with 800 to 1,100 feet (240 to 335 m) of accumulated white to tan-colored fossilized sand dunes.[11] The resulting formation, called the Navajo Sandstone, is composed of cross-bedded and very clean sandstone with well-rounded, generally very fine-grained and frosted sand. It reached its greatest thickness, 2,000 feet (610 m) in what is now Zion National Park (see geology of the Zion and Kolob canyons area). The cross-bedded make-up of the Navajo leads to the formation of curvilinear canyons and rounded domes such as Capitol Dome and Navajo Dome. In other places it forms massive cliffs and monoliths. Subsequent erosion leveled the tops of the sand dunes and left them in up to 60 foot (18 m) thick easy to discern layers.[11]

San Rafael Group (Jurassic)[edit]

Frequent but short-lived changes in sea level during the Mid to Late Jurassic periodically flooded the area with shallow extensions of the ocean.[11] The resulting San Rafael Group is composed of four formations that were deposited on top of the Glen Canyon Group's regionally traceable erosion surface. San Rafael Group formations are (from oldest to youngest);

San Rafael formations can be seen on the east-dipping part of the Waterpocket Fold.

Climatic conditions were still arid when the locally 0 to 100 feet (0 to 30 m) thick Page Sandstone was deposited above the reach of high tide yet near the shore of an advancing sea (sabkha-like conditions).[12] This formation is composed of three members; the

  • Harris Wash,
  • Judd Hollow, and the
  • Thousand Pockets.

Together they were laid on top of the Navajo sand dunes as the sea slowly flooded the vast desert. An outcrop of the Judd Hollow Member can be seen from mile marker 86.5 as a red cliff above the Fremont River falls. The cross-bedded sandstone just above the red cliff is an example of the Thousand Pockets Member.

The Fremont River crosses the Waterpocket Fold in the upper half of this satellite picture, while the white line of Capitol Reef bisects the lower half.

In Mid Jurassic time gypsum, sand, and limey silt were deposited in what may have been a graben that was periodically covered by sea water and thus a place where repeated flooding was followed by evaporation.[13] The resulting Carmel Formation is composed of 200 to 1,000 feet (60 to 300 m) of reddish-brown siltstone, mudstone and sandstone that alternates with whitish-gray gypsum and fossil-rich limestone in a banded pattern. Fossils include marine bivalves and ammonites.[14] Most of the Carmel has been removed from the Waterpocket Fold's crest but outcrops can be seen capping the Golden Throne and atop various domes in the area. It can also be seen as reddish-brown triangular-shaped spurs called 'flatirons' that form the Waterpocket Fold's eastern rampart.

Cathedral Mountainin Cathedral Valley is composed of Entrada Sandstone capped by Curtis Formation

A near-shore environment dominated by barrier islands, sand bars and tidal flats later returned to the region. The sand and silt deposited created the 400 to 900 foot (120 to 275 m) thick reddish orange Entrada Sandstone.[14] Distinctive jointing systems in the Entrada lead to the formation of cathedrals and monoliths in Capitol Reef's Cathedral Valley, arches in Arches National Park and 'goblins' (the local name for hoodoos) in nearby Goblin Valley State Park. Entrada exposures in the southern part of the park are mostly made of flat-bedded siltstones and erode into slopes. Moving north, Entrada exposures increasingly become rich in cross-bedded sandstone and erode into cliffs with fewer and fewer slopes.

Fine-grained sand and silt mixed with sandy lime were laid down as sediments on top of the Entrada Sandstone, forming the locally 0 to 175 foot (53 m) thick erosion-resistant Curtis Formation.[14] A green ironpotassiumsilicate called glauconite in the Curtis indicates it was deposited in a shallow sea. Outcrops of the light grayish-green Curtis can be seen as a capstone in the northern section of the park while it is locally absent in the southern part.

Tidal flat conditions returned as the shallow sea that created the Curtis Formation retreated from land. Thin beds of reddish-brown mudstone alternating with less frequent beds of greenish-gray sandstone and limestone were deposited as sediments, forming the locally 50 to 250 foot (15 to 75 m) thick Summerville Formation.[14] This formation erodes into ledgy cliffs and slopes and can be seen above Curtis caprock in Cathedral Valley. Fossilized mudcracks and ripple marks are found in the Curtis along with up to 28 foot (8.5 m) thick gypsum-rich beds.

Morrison Formation (Jurassic)[edit]

Morrison Formation from near Notom-Bullfrog Road (USGS)

Again above sea level, streams laid down mud and sand in their channels, on lakebeds, and in swampy plains during the Upper Jurassic. This became the Morrison Formation, which is locally divided into three members (from oldest to youngest);

  • Tidwell Member,
  • Salt Wash, and
  • Brushy Basin.

The 50 to 100 foot (15 to 30 m) thick Tidwell Member is locally difficult to recognize and therefore may or may not be in the area's rocks.[14] Easier to identify and study outcrops elsewhere in southeastern Utah indicate they were deposited in hypersaline lagoons.

Clay, mud, silt, cross-bedded sand, and pebbles were later deposited by meandering streams and in flood plains, forming the locally 100 to 500 foot (30 to 150 m) thick Salt Wash Member.[14] Claystone and mudstone beds of this member erode into gray slopes that can exhibit brown, red, yellow, and green colors. Salt Wash sandstone is moderately sorted and fine to medium grained while pebble conglomerate beds are made of chert with small amounts of silica-rich limestone. Both bed types erode into ledges and small cliffs. The Salt Wash was locally mined in the 1950s to extract uranium ore.[15]

The 200 to 350 foot (60 to 105 m) thick Brushy Basin Member is composed of claystone, mudstone, and siltstone with small amounts of conglomerate and sandstone.[14] Clays in this member are rich in smectite and thus tend to swell when wet and dry to a crumbled surface that looks a bit like popcorn. Fossilized dinosaur bones are abundant in this member in several places located in Utah and western Colorado. The bones are usually scattered and are thus hard to identify but nearly complete skeletons have been found in lake floor and flood-plain clays. Good exposures of the Brushy Basin Member can be seen in the Bentonite Hills.

Cedar Mountain and Dakota formations (Cretaceous)[edit]

The Capitol Reef area was on the edge of an epicontinental sea for much of the Cretaceous (USGS).

Early Cretaceous time brought continental deposition that was dominated by rivers to the area. Sandstones and mudstones accumulated to form the 0 to 166 foot (50.5 m) thick slope-forming Cedar Mountain Formation. The 73 foot (22 m) thick Buckhorn Conglomerate Member thins out north and east of the park and is nearly absent in it, making it difficult to distinguish the underlying Morrison from the somewhat more pastel-colored Cedar Mountain.[16] Fossilized freshwater animals such as mollusks and ostracods along with dinosaurs, fish scales, pollen and a genus of fern called Tempskya have been found in this formation.[16]

The passive continental margin became active when the Farallon Plate started to dive below the North American Plate. Geologists call the resulting mountain-building event the Sevier orogeny. Compressive forces detached sedimentary units across western Utah and Nevada from their Precambrian basement rocks and pushed them eastward.[3] The weight of the resulting high mountain range that formed to the west, lowered much of Utah and allowed the sea to invade. This grew into a vast sea that periodically divided North America in the Cretaceous called the Western Interior Seaway.[17]

Non-marine sediments of the approximately 100- to 94-million-year-old Dakota Sandstone were deposited on the shore of this seaway early in the Cretaceous.[17] The up to 150 foot (45 m) thick formation consists of fine-grained tan to brownish-gray colored quartz-rich sandstone that is interbedded with thin layers of carbon-rich shale, coal, and conglomerate.[17]

Petrified wood is found in the lower part of the formation while fossilized marine bivalves such as Corbula and Pycnodonte newberryi are in the upper layers. This fossil progression shows a record of flooding that created the seaway. Dakota erode into small cliffs and hogbacks that can be seen in the southern section of the park.[18]

Mancos Shale and Mesaverde Formation (Cretaceous)[edit]

Approximately 94 to 85 million years ago, the seaway advanced onto and retreated from land as it laid down the Mancos Shale.[17] The Mancos is composed mostly of shale but two of its members, the Ferron and Muley Canyon, are sandstone that were laid down when relative sea level temporarily dropped. The five Mancos members from oldest to youngest are:

  1. Tununk Shale,
  2. Ferron Sandstone,
  3. Blue Gate Shale,
  4. Muley Canyon, and
  5. Masuk.
Mancos Shale slopes along the east side of Strike Valley (USGS)

Parts of this formation are found in some mesas and buttes in the southernmost part of the park and in badlands east of the park.[19]

Open marine conditions created the locally 40 to 720 feet (12 to 220 m) thick gullied slope-forming Tununk Shale Member. It is made of bluish-gray shale with interbedded mudstone, fine-grained sandstone and siltstone. The Tununk erodes into a slope and is locally fossil-rich.[20] It is most prominently exposed in the Blue Desert immediately southeast of Cathedral Valley and contains fossilized examples of cephalopods, bivalves, and fish scales.

A wave-dominated delta and river system then spread over the area, creating the locally 205 to 385 feet (62 to 117 m) thick cliff-forming Ferron Sandstone. It is composed of brown fine-grained sandstone along with white cross-bedded sandstone with interbedded carbonate-rich gray shale.[20] The marine bivalve Inoceramus and trace fossils of Ophiomorpha are found in the lower part of this member. Ferron Sandstone north of the area contains seams of coal in its upper part, prompting some petroleum geologists to study this member to model oil-bearing regions.

Open marine conditions returned in the Late Cretaceous, forming the locally 1,200 to 1,500 foot (365 to 460 m) thick slope-forming Blue Gate Shale. This member is composed of bentonite rich clays, siltstone and some sandstone. It erodes into gullied slopes similar in appearance to the Tununk Shale. The presence of two species of planktonic foraminifera in the upper Blue Gate, Clioscaphites vermiformis and Clioscaphites choteauenis, was used to date this member.

An ancient shoreline once again approached the area, resulting in the formation of the locally 300 to 400 feet (90 to 120 m) thick Muley Canyon Member. It is composed of evenly bedded, fine-grained sandstone and carbon-rich shales. Coal beds are found in the upper parts of this member, indicating continental coastal plain conditions at that time.

Alternating layers of shallow marine and non-marine sediments were deposited as the shoreline fluctuated back and forth over the area. These sediments became the locally 650 to 750 foot (200 to 230 m) thick Masuk Member.[21] The Masuk consists of cliff-forming cross-bedded sandstones and slope-forming yellowish-gray to bluish-gray mudstones with interbedded light gray sandstones. Fossils of bivalves, ceratopsian dinosaurs, crocodiles, gastropods, and turtles have been collected in this member.[21]

The Western Interior Seaway was shrinking due to infilling and uplift while the high mountains to the east were being reduced by erosion. Barrier beaches and river deltas migrated eastward into the seaway. The resulting 300 to 400 foot (90 to 120 m) thick Mesaverde Formation consists of light-brown to dark-gray thick-bedded and cross-stratified sandstone with interbedded dark gray shale and intertongues with the Masuk Member of the overlying Mancos Shale.[22] Only small remnants are found capping a few mesas in the park's eastern section.

Uplift and Cenozoic events[edit]

Waterpocket Fold, Lake Uinta and volcanism[edit]

The Laramide orogeny compacted the region from about 70 million to 50 million years ago and in the process created the Rocky Mountains. Many monoclines (a type of gentle upward fold in rock strata) were also formed by the deep compressive forces of the Laramide. One of those monoclines, called the Waterpocket Fold, is the major geographic feature of the park. The 100 mile (160 km) long fold has a north–south alignment with a steeply east-dipping side. The rock layers on the west side of the Waterpocket Fold have been lifted more than 7,000 feet (2,100 m) higher than the layers on the east.[23] Thus older rocks are exposed on the western part of the fold and younger rocks on the eastern part. This particular fold may have been created due to movement along a fault in the Precambrian basement rocks hidden well below any exposed formations. Small earthquakes centered below the fold in 1979 may be from such a fault.[24]

Contemporary with the Waterpocket Fold's formation was the development of an intermontane (between mountains) basin in the area. Lake Uinta filled this basin with stream water derived from the north and south. This large lake existed from about 58 million until 35 million years ago and is responsible for creating the Flagstaff Limestone and Green River Formation, which locally reach a thickness of around 200 feet (60 m). Elsewhere these formations have a combined thickness of over 9,000 feet (2,740 m).[17] The Flagstaff is a white-colored, fossil rich layer that is composed of limestone, tufa and conglomerate that erodes into ledges and slopes.[20]

Compressive forces caused by the Laramide orogeny were followed by some minor stretching as a new equilibrium was established. This created weaknesses in the crust that allowed magma to intrude toward the surface to create composite volcanos west of the area some 25 to 20 million years ago.[17] Within the fold, magma intruded through and between formations about 4.6 to 3.7 million years ago to respectively create dikes and sills.[17] Small basaltic lava flows erupted through fissures at the surface and igneous activity continued sporadically afterwards. Subsequent erosion preferentially removed the softer sedimentary rock that initially entombed the dikes, sills, and volcanic plugs, often leaving them standing in relief.[25] Examples can be seen in South Desert and Cathedral Valley at the northern end of the fold.


The Fremont River has been able to keep up with the uplift of the Waterpocket Fold.

Ten to fifteen million years ago the entire region was uplifted several thousand feet (well over a kilometer) by the creation of the Colorado Plateaus. This time the uplift was more even, leaving the overall orientation of the formations mostly intact. Most of the erosion that carved today's landscape occurred after the uplifting of the Colorado Plateau with much of the major canyon cutting probably occurring between 1 and 6 million years ago.[26] Even in this desert climate, water is the erosional agent most responsible for the carving of the landscape. The pull of gravity, in the form of rock falls or rock creep, plays a major role in the shaping of the cliff lines. Wind is a minor agent of erosion here.

The drainage system in the area was rearranged and steepened as the Waterpocket Fold was uplifted. Larger streams, such as the Fremont River, were more likely to keep up with the uplift by downcutting into the Waterpocket Fold faster. Other streams, such as Sand Creek, changed their course by flowing parallel to the fold and cutting into less resistant formations. Yet other streams tried to keep up with the uplift by carving slot canyons only to later change course, leaving their canyons literally high and dry.[27] A total of 7,000 feet (2,100 m) of overlying Mesozoic and Cenozoic sediment has been removed by erosion in the area.[28]

Big Thomson Mesa seen from space

Wetter and cooler conditions developed during the Pleistocene epoch and briefly returned via at least two neoglacial episodes (little ice ages) in the current epoch, the Holocene.[29] The various rivers and streams in the area were engorged by increased precipitation and with melt-water from mountain glaciers on the Henry Mountains to the east and the Aquarius Plateau to the west of the park.[30]Flash floods, mass wasting of hillsides, frost wedging, and landslides all contributed to a significantly faster rate of erosion. Glaciers plucked 20- to 30-million-year-old black basaltic boulders from atop Boulder and Thousand Lake Mountains that were subsequently deposited over the park area by meltwater streams from the glaciers, rockslides and floods.[31]


Works cited[edit]

  • Billingsley, G.H., Breed, W.J. and Huntoon, P.W.; 1987; Geologic Map of capitol Reef National Park and vicinity, Utah; Utah Geologic Survey (viewed March 25, 2006)
  • Halka Chronic, Roadside Geology of Utah (Mountain Press; 1990) ISBN 0-87842-228-5
  • Ann G. Harris, Esther Tuttle, Sherwood D., Tuttle, Geology of National Parks: Fifth Edition (Iowa, Kendall/Hunt Publishing; 1997) ISBN 0-7872-5353-7
  • L. F. Hintze, Geologic History of Utah, Brigham Young University Geology Studies, v. 20, Part 3. Provo UT, page 181
  • Thomas H. Morris, Vicky Wood Manning, and Scott M. Ritter, "Geology of Capitol Reef National Park, Utah" in Geology of Utah's Parks and Monuments, Douglas A. Sprinkel, Thomas C. Chindsey, Jr., and Paul B. Anderson, Editors (Salt Lake City; Utah Geological Association; 2003) ISBN 1-882054-10-5
  • National Park Service, "Capitol Reef: Geology" (viewed March 25, 2006)
  • William Lee Stokes, Geology of Utah (Salt Lake City; Utah Museum of Natural History; 1988) ISBN 0-940378-05-1


  1. ^NPS, "Capitol Reef"
  2. ^Stokes, 1988, page 95, paragraph 3
  3. ^ abcdMorris et al., 2003, page 96, Tectonics and Geologic History"
  4. ^'Cutler Formation' is the accepted usage by the USGS while 'Cutler Group' is preferred by the Utah Geological Survey, according to the GEOLEX database entry for 'Cutler'. Accessed March 18, 2006
  5. ^Morris et al., 2003, page 86, "Culter Group", paragraph 1
  6. ^ abcdefgMorris et al., 2003, page 90
  7. ^ abcdefgHarris et al., 1997, page 62
  8. ^ abcMorris et al., 2003, page 90, "Kaibab Limestone"
  9. ^Morris et al., 2003, page 90 to 91, "Moenkopi Formation"
  10. ^ abcdefghijMorris et al., 2003, page 91
  11. ^ abcdeMorris et al., 2003, page 92
  12. ^Morris et al., 2003, pages 92–93
  13. ^Harris et al., 1997, page 63, section 4, paragraph 1
  14. ^ abcdefgMorris et al., 2003, page 94
  15. ^Harris et al., 1997, page 64, section 5
  16. ^ abMorris et al., 2003, page 95
  17. ^ abcdefgMorris et al., 2003, page 97
  18. ^Morris et al., 2003, page 95, "Dakota Sandstone"
  19. ^Harris et al., 1997, page 65, section 6, paragraph 2
  20. ^ abcBillingsley et al., 1987, page 5
  21. ^ abMorris et al., 2003, page 95, "Mancos Shale"
  22. ^Morris et al., 2003, pages 95–96, "Mesaverde Formation" and Billingsley et al., 1987, page 5
  23. ^NPS, "Geology", paragraph 1
  24. ^Harris et al., 1997, page 65, section 7
  25. ^Harris et al., 1997, page 60, "Igneous Rocks"
  26. ^NPS, "Erosion"
  27. ^Harris et al., 1997, page 66, section 9, paragraph 1
  28. ^Morris et al., 2003, page 98, paragraph 1
  29. ^Harris et al., 1997, page 66, section 9
  30. ^Hintze, 1973
  31. ^Harris et al., 1997, page 60, "Igneous Rocks", paragraph 2

Park capitol wiki national reef

Capitol Reef National Park

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Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. A massive Waterpocket Fold in the Earth's Crust.

Capitol Reef National Park is a US National Park in south-central Utah. It is 100 miles (160 km) long but fairly narrow. The park is filled with canyons, cliffs, towers, domes, and arches.

NPS logo.gif

Capitol Reef National Park

U.S. National Park Service


External links

Capitol Reef National Park (TRAVEL GUIDE) - Beautiful America Series - Episode# 5

Hickman Bridge Trail, Capitol Reef National Park

Hickman Bridgeis one of the highlights of Capitol Reef - a large, elegant natural arch in a scenic side canyon far above the Fremont River, surrounded by the great white domes of Navajo sandstone that characterize the national park. It is quite easily reached, by just a 1.2 mile hike from UT 24, and receives a steady stream of visitors, a few of whom continue up the linked Rim Overlook/Navajo Knobs Trail, a steeper, 2 mile path that climbs further up the cliffs then heads westwards to a summit at 6,900 feet with panoramic views over the reef and the river valley.

The Trail

The Hickman Bridge trailhead is at a parking area two miles east of the visitor center turn-off, just beside the point where UT 24 crosses from the south to the north side of the Fremont River, and opposite the north end of the Cohab Canyon Trail. An NPS brochure is available, describing 18 numbered points of interest. The route is along the river bank for a short while, up the steep hillside to the north and past the turn off for the Rim Overlook & Navajo Knobs trails, across an open area then down into a shallow, rocky canyon. The bridge is half a mile further at the head of the canyon, and has a very impressive setting, above most of its surroundings and quite far from the adjacent cliffs. It is comparable in dimensions to the three arches of Natural Bridges National Monument, with a 130 foot span and 125 foot height.


The far end of the path loops under the bridge and provides plenty of different vantage points allowing photography from a variety of angles. Just beyond is a good overlook of the Fremont River valley and distant lands to the west, while all around are eroded rock formations of many colors, with larger domed summits in the distance. The round trip to Hickman Bridge and back (2.5 miles) takes around one hour.


Similar news:

The Grand Circle is a touristic tour in the southwest of the United States of America .

The term "Grand Circle Tour" was introduced in the 1920s by the Union Pacific Railroad to market a multi-day bus tour. The offer was very popular and contributed to the tourist development of the sometimes quite remote national parks of the southwest with its natural wonders.

Following this, car tours in the region in particular are now marketed as “Grand Circle Tour”. Depending on the route, it leads through national parks and numerous national monuments in the states of Arizona , New Mexico , Colorado , Utah and Nevada . The landscape of the Grand Circle is one of the most impressive geological landscapes in the United States. The Grand Circle runs largely along the National Scenic Byways , a national program introduced in 1991 to preserve major back roads of historic, cultural, or scenic value.



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