What Is Capitol Reef National Park?

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  • Written By: Lumara Lee
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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Capitol Reef National Park is located in Utah and managed by the National Park Service. The national park system in the United States was formed to protect especially beautiful property or land with special features from development. This park was established in 1937 to protect a natural feature called the waterpocket fold. Originally inhabited by the Native American Utes and Paiutes, Capitol Reef National Park is a popular destination for hikers, boaters, horseback riders, and sightseers today.

When the park was first established, it encompassed 37,711 acres. Land has been added to it several times since then, and today the park consists of more than 240,000 acres covering 378 square miles (979 square kilometers). Striking butte formations, sandstone domes, colorful canyons, monoliths, and scenic ridges attract hikers and photographers to the area, and paved roads provide drives with breathtaking scenery.

The spectacular formations in Capitol Reef National Park were created when the earth heaved and created a fold that trapped water inside. Some believe that the waterpocket fold was formed during the same earth movement that thrust the Rocky Mountains upward. Throughout the years, the water eroded the sandstone, creating the stunning formations that have made Capitol Reef National Park such a popular attraction.


Fruit orchards that remain from an early Mormon community that had been established within what are now the boundaries of the park are maintained by park staff and still yield a bountiful harvest. Park visitors are encouraged to pick the fruit when it is in season. Any fruit consumed in the orchard is free.

The old log schoolhouse and the Gifford farmstead have been left standing for guests to examine and learn about the history of the early settlers. Located only a mile from the park visitors’ center, the kitchen of the Gifford farmhouse has been converted into a shop where people can purchase hand-crafted reproductions of common items used by the original inhabitants. These items include textiles such as aprons, rag dolls, and quilts as well as items rarely used today, like butter churns and flour sifters.

Capitol Reef National Park was named for several white dome formations that remind visitors of the large dome atop the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The layers of rock that have been eroded to form the many narrow canyons within the park display striking colors caused by the minerals that were deposited centuries ago. White, blue, green, brown, and yellow combine to create the spectacular canyons that help make this park a vacation paradise.


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Post 1

"earth heaved and created a fold that trapped water inside."

Nonsense. The water pockets, which are also called 'tanks', are the many small catchments in the canyons that fill with water from storms.

The Utes and Piutes were not the original residents, those were the Fremont People, a branch of the Anasazi who left about 700 years ago.

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