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EXPLORE AMERICA: Capitol Reef National Park

Formed by the same forces that shaped the Colorado Plateau and raised the Rocky Mountains, Capitol Reef National Park promises dramatic vistas. One hundred miles of bending, creasing rock created Waterpocket Fold, a prominent natural feature in the park. The fold’s layered rock can be seen between Thousand Lake Mountain and the Colorado River. Erosion has exposed these layers, transforming the landscape into a rainbow-hued collection of cliffs, domes, arches, spires, and twisting canyons.

In the 1870s, a few Mormons moved into the vicinity. In 1880, the first Homesteaders settled in the lush Fremont River Valley. The area became known as “Junction”. Founded at the junction of the Fremont River and Sulphur Creek, this community supported around ten families who grew vegetables, sorghum, and alfalfa. Junction’s prosperity, however, was due to its orchards. The settlers planted apple, peach, cherry, apricot, mulberry, and plum trees, along with almond and walnut trees, and over 2,500 of the trees survive to this day. In the early 20th century Junction was renamed “Fruita,” and today the remains of this historic community are central to visitor activities at Capitol Reef. Capitol Reef park was designated as a national monument in 1937, but it wasn’t until the early 1960s, when a paved road into the area was completed, that visitation rose. In 1971, Capitol Reef was established as a national park. Although it still remains remote and rugged, the park welcomes nearly 700,000 visitors per year. The main road through Capitol Reef National Park, scenic UT 24, leads to the visitor center near the 200-acre historic Fruita settlement. In addition to providing information on trail and road conditions throughout the park, the visitor center features an introductory audiovisual presentation, shown on request, and a huge relief map of the park. Geological exhibits explain the natural history of the park, while the area’s human history is represented by artifacts from the ancient Fremont Culture and the more recent Mormon inhabitants.

Telephone 435-425-3791. http://www.nps.gov/care/index.htm

Photo credit: ©Corel

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