In the summer of 1994 my wife and I drove from our home in Crow Canyon about 740 miles east to Salt Lake City to attend the annual Oregon-California Trails Association convention. After the convention we decided to drive through three of Utah’s five national parks — Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion — on our return to California. All three parks are pretty close to each other, east of I-15 and south of I-70. Here are some photos from our first stop: Capitol Reef.
Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.
We drove south from Salt Lake City on I-15 and then east on I-70 and south again on state highway 24 and followed the signs to Capitol Reef.
The park gets its name from the resemblance of many prominent local rock formations to the nation’s capitol dome. “Reef” refers to a rocky ridge that is an obstacle for transportation. There are many such reefs in the park and most of them are capped by white Navajo sandstone.
John Charles Fremont explored the central Utah area in the 1850s on his fifth exploration of the west and the Fremont River and valley is named after him. And so archaeologists studying the culture of the ancient people who once lived in what is now Capitol Reef called them the Fremont people. There’s a trail near the park’s visitor center that leads to some petroglyphs left by these people and there are more pictograms and petroglyphs elsewhere throughout the park. Unfortunately, some of the ancient art has been defaced by modern graffiti artists.
The park visitor center is on Highway 24 about 8 miles east of the tiny town of Torrey.
Mormon pioneers planted hundreds of fruit trees in the area known as Fruita and the National Park Service maintains these orchards to this very day. The fruit is free for the picking if you eat it there but there is a charge if you take it away. You can pick cherries in June, apricots in July, pears and peaches in August, and apples in September. My wife found a tree loaded with juicy peaches.
The Capitol Reef Scenic Drive Road starts at the Visitor Center and goes on for about eight miles, providing access to a few unpaved roads for more dauntless explorers.
Canyonlands is east of Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon is southwest in the general direction of our return to California via Las Vegas. So we skipped Canyonlands for another day and headed for Bryce Canyon. Tomorrow I will show you some photos from that visit.
Note on the photos: I used an Olympus 35mm camera in those days and took Kodachrome slides. The slides sat in their carousals for about 20 years until I finally digitized them three years ago. I then post-processed the photos in Lightroom and Nik Color Efex Pro during the last week.