A gigantic, curved fold in the Earth’s crust stretches 100 miles (160 km) in south-central Utah. Formed by the same tremendous forces that shaped the Colorado Plateau 65 million years ago, this impressive rock formation is called the Waterpocket Fold. This fold is part of Capitol Reef National Park, which also features an eroded jumble of colorful cliffs, massive domes, soaring spired pillars, rigid monoliths, winding canyons and graceful arches.
According to campingship, the Waterpocket Fold area has even more to offer: the free-flowing Fremont River, the expansive desert skies and an abundance of plant and animal life: cacti, juniper, columbines, jays, lizards, rabbits and deer live in the park. Native Americans hunted here and farmed for more than 1,000 years. Mormon pioneers later settled here with their families. Poets, artists, photographers and those who just want to relax in seclusion and endless space will find inspiration here.
Formation of the Waterpocket Fold
The Waterpocket Fold consists of numerous layers of sedimentary rock. These originally horizontal layers were formed by sediments deposited in oceans, tidal flats, deserts, and other environments over hundreds of thousands of years. Then, as the huge landmass of the Colorado Plateau began to rise, the layers of rock were thrown up into a gigantic fold. Gradually, many of the top layers of the old fold were completely washed away, leaving only a hint of the Waterpocket Fold’s former outrageous size. As wind and water slowly continue to erode the fold, new shapes emerge from the rock
life along the river
Life in the Waterpocket Fold area is most lush along the Freemont River. Native Americans, early pioneers, moisture-loving plants and animals have all found sanctuary near its waters. Native Americans of the little-known but widespread “Freemont culture” lived along the river as early as 700 AD, sharing the rugged rocky desert of the Colorado Plateau with the Anasazi who lived to the south. The Freemont Indians hunted and gathered their food, and also grew corn, beans, and squashes. When they mysteriously disappeared around 1250, they left few traces of their way of life. Their rock paintings (pictographs) and carvings (petroglyphs) on the canyon walls are still visible in some places. Later, nomadic Ute and Paiute Indians hunted in the Waterpocket Fold area.
Vegetation along the Fremont River consists of American cottonwood, willow and ash, which produce a ribbon of fresh green each spring, as well as Indian paintbrush (Castilleja), golden pea and other wild flowers. A variety of animals are attracted to the water: thousands of birds, from the bluebird to the migratory duck, and mammals from the marmot to the mule deer. As soon as you go even a few hundred meters from the river, the desert with its sparse vegetation dominates again.
In the hinterland
Miles of unpaved roads lead to remote corners of the Waterpocket Fold area, once only of interest to cowboys, geologists, miners and shepherds. Today, these spots offer park visitors natural beauty and seclusion. In vast expanses like Cathedral Valley, golden eagles soar and stone monolith towers soar above the sandy desert plains. In secluded canyons like Halls Creek Canyon, hanging monkey flower and maidenhair fern gardens adorn the canyon walls. A few viewpoints can be found on many roads, including the Burr Trail, where the scenery becomes more and more breathtaking the higher the road climbs. Deep inland, the roads and trails allow one to enjoy the rugged splendor of the National Park.
Capitol Reef National Park information
Location and Size
Capitol Reef National Park is located in southern Utah in the heart of Red Rock Country. The park is around 100 km long but relatively narrow with a width of around 10 km. In 1937 the area was declared a national monument and in 1971 it was declared a national park. The park covers an area of 978 km². The centerpiece of the national park is the Waterpocket Fold, a geological formation over 160 km long that stretches in a north-south direction.
Arriving West on Interstate 70 : Take Utah State Highway 24 west toward Hanksville (Exit 149). Stay on Highway 24, the visitor center is 153 km (95 miles).
Arriving on Interstate I5: From US Highway 50 east at Scipio (Exit 188) towards Salina for 48 km (30 miles). At the intersection of Utah State Highway 89/259, turn right (south) and continue 13 km (8 miles).) Turn left (east) on Utah State Highway 24 toward Sigurd. Drive 132 km (82 miles), continue on Utah Highway 24 to reach the visitor center.
There is no public transport to or in the park.
The park and campsites are open all year round.
The Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Center is open daily (except major holidays) from 8am to 4:30pm. In the summer months it is open a little longer.
The visitor center offers a variety of brochures, books, maps, exhibitions and a short slide program for orientation. Park staff are available to help plan your visit and answer questions. The visitor center is open every day except for some national holidays.
Driving on the Scenic Drive beyond Fruita Campground is $10 per person for hikers and cyclists. Private vehicles with all occupants are USD 20, motorcycles USD 15. Admission is valid for 7 days.
America the Beautiful Annual Pass
The annual pass costs $80 and entitles you to visit over 2,000 US federal recreation areas and national parks for one year from the date of purchase. The entrance fee applies to the driver and all passengers of a private, non-commercial vehicle (or up to a maximum of 4 adults in total if per-person entrance fees are charged). Children under 16 are free. If you visit more than 4 national parks, it is usually worth buying the America the Beautiful Annual Pass.
The pass can be purchased at many stores across the US and is also available in advance from various tour operators.
The Fruita Campsite, equipped for tents, campers and caravans, is open all year round. Arriving early ensures a good spot. The campground has 71 pitches, picnic tables, BBQ grills, and restrooms; Drinking water is available. A court fee must be paid. The two basic campgrounds, Cathedral Valley and Cedar Mesa, are open year-round. Both have five pitches, tables, grills and toilets, but no water.
Backcountry camping is permitted in most of the park, but requires a permit, which is available free of charge. You can get this at the visitor center.
A picnic area near the visitor center has tables, grills, restrooms, drinking water, and shady trees. Simple picnic spots along the Burr Trail and Caineville Wash Road have tables but nothing else.
Accommodation and services
Food, camping equipment, petrol and accommodation are not offered in the park. Nearby towns offer these and other services.
In summer, temperatures often reach 30º C, at night it can drop to 10º to 15º C. The thunderstorm season from July to September brings frequent cloudbursts. Beware of flash tides and lightning. However, the cloud formations are a feast for the eyes – also for photographers.
Spring and autumn are ideal months for long-distance hikes and other more strenuous activities due to their milder temperatures (around 10º to 15º C). Winter maximum temperatures average below 10º C. Snowfall, especially at low altitudes, is common. Humidity is low throughout the year. Less than 200 mm of rain falls annually. Late summer thunderstorms bring most of the rain. CAUTION: Such thunderstorms can turn dry, sandy riverbeds into torrents.
|Average temperatures in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah in °C|