The Capitol Reef National Park is one of the most famous national parks in Utah. It is famous for the Waterpocket Fold, which is a 65 million year old wrinkle in the earth’s crust. It has been speculated that this wrinkle was caused by the same collision of continental plates that created the Rocky Mountains. The most scenic section of the Waterpocket Fold can be found near the Fremont River. It is known as Capitol Reef. It gets the name "capitol" because of the white domes of Navajo Sandstone that bear a striking resemblance to capitol building rotundas.
The majority of the rock formations that you see in Capitol Reef National Park are sedimentary. This implies that the rock originally started out as ocean, river, or lake sediment that was brought to the shore by water or wind. This type of rock can be found in many of the national parks in Utah.
Thousands of years ago, the Fremont Culture of Native Americans inhabited the area close to the Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park. Later, the Pauites would inhabit the area. The earliest explorers of Capitol Reef National Park were Franciscan Friars who visited the area in 1775-76 in an attempt to discover a safe and passable overland route from Santa Fe to the California missions. Unfortunately, bad weather and rugged terrain caused them to abandon their quest. Discouraged, they headed back to New Mexico. Following the American Civil War, the Mormons settled in the area. Eventually, they forced out the remaining Native American population. Many years later, on August 2nd 1937, President Roosevelt signed a proclamation creating Capitol Reef Utah National Monument. Then, in 1971, President Richard Nixon signed legislation that established the Capitol Reef National Park. Today, thousands of tourists visit Capitol Reef Utah.
The geology of Capitol Reef Utah is quite fascinating. It consists of
- Wingate Sandstone, which is formed from sand dunes.
- Kayenta Formations, which are thin layers of sand that have been deposited by slow-moving streams in the channels and across the low plains.
- Navajo Sandstones, which are sand dunes that resemble the terrain of the Sahara Desert.
Aside from its intriguing geology, like many other national parks in Utah, Capitol Reef National Park is famous for its diversity of wildlife. Bird species such as loons, hawks, flacons, vultures, geese, herons, grebes, egrets and pelicans can be seen throughout the area. There is also a thriving reptile and amphibian population that calls Capitol Reef Utah its home. Members of this species include boas, lizards, salamanders, frogs and toads.