Basic Facts About Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park lies in southern Utah and is home to a rugged desert filled with breathtaking rock formations. The park surrounds the Waterpocket Fold, a natural wrinkle in the earth’s crust. One of Utah’s distinguished national parks, Capitol Reef National Park draws many visitors each year. 


In ancient times, Native American tribes inhabited the land surrounding the Waterpocket Fold. When explorer John C. Fremont came across Capitol Reef in 1854, Fremont River was named after him. In the 1870s and 80s, Mormon settlers established themselves in the area and developed what is now the historic district of Fruita alongside the Fremont River. The orchards the Mormons planted there still grow fruit today and can be picked from by visitors to Capitol Reef National Park. President Franklin D. Roosevelt named the area, then called Wayne Wonderland, as a national monument, though funding for the park was limited. In the 1960s, the park gained a visitor center, a campground, staff housing, and a paved road, and the majority of farmers who had previously inhabited the land sold their portions to the National Park Service. In 1968, a massive plot of land was added to the park, which led to the official establishment of Capitol Reef National Park in 1971.


Characterized by ancient geological features like colorful sandstone canyons, buttes, ridges, slot canyons, narrow bridges, cliffs, streams, and monoliths, the park exists along the vast Waterpocket Fold, a monocline which extends 100 miles from Thousand Lakes Mountain to Lake Powell. The park is named for its rocky buttes which are said to resemble capitol domes, and the line of rugged cliffs which, similarly to coral reefs in the ocean, provide a barrier to travel.