Utah’s National Parks: Capitol Reef

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.

The park gets its name from the many domes of white Navajo sandstone that early Mormon prospectors thought resembled the nation’s capitol.

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 Fremont River flows through Capitol Reef National Park.

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.

Petroglyphs carved by the Fremont people about a thousand years ago.

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.

A rock formation known as The Castle looms over the park’s Visitor Center.

The park visitor center is on Highway 24 about 8 miles east of the tiny town of Torrey.

My wife and her Fruita peach tree.

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.

Some of the reefs view-able from the park’s Scenic Drive.

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.

Another castle-like rock formation.

This rock of red sandstone is an example of the moenkopi formation, a geological formation that is more than two million years old and is common is the southwest.

Close-up of a reef with different rock layers.

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.

About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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14 Responses to Utah’s National Parks: Capitol Reef

  1. Awesome series! Thanks for sharing!

  2. disperser says:

    We never did make it to that one. Nice photos.

  3. jmnowak says:

    Love this sort of country. Were the peaches delish? 🔆

  4. They were! I hear that there are more than 3,000 fruit trees in Fruita that are maintained by the NPS.

  5. kzmcb says:

    Hi there. I think your rock formations are very similar to outback Australia. I love how you can see where the plates lifted up at some stage. We have rock art that is painted on but most of it cannot be photographed or displayed after for commercial purposes, as the indigenous people find that disrespectful. I’m really enjoying your blog.

    • I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. We spent a week in Australia in 2011 but spent most of that time in Sydney. Thanks for the info on the outback and the rock art. We are going to have to go back some day and see more of Australia!

  6. Peter Klopp says:

    Scanned and digitized your images look as great as being taken only yesterday.

    • Thanks, Peter. I bought a high-resolution Nikon super Coolscan scanner in 2006 and used the Nikon software to scan slides for a few years and then purchased VueScan when I bought a newer computer with a newer version of Windows, My earliest slides were more than 30 years old when I scanned them and some of them were very discolored and faded. If I were going to scan all over again I wouldn’t use any of the sharpening and color correction features of the scanning software and instead would use Lightroom for all of that post-processing. Most of the damage I encountered in the scanning and digitizing was in the bright sky areas of the photos.

      • Peter Klopp says:

        That was truly a stupendous task to scan and digitize all those slides. That job is still ahead of me. When my bother-in-law passed away in 1993 he left us thousands of slides covering travels to the Balkan, Japan, India, Brazil and also his model ships. They all need to be looked at and scanned before they are lost for ever.

  7. mvschulze says:

    Capitol and Bryce are two of several more parks I wanted to explore. We’ve been to Zion, and last year was our time in Canyonlands, and Arches and others in the eastern region. I would love to go to Utah at least one more time, and include a slot canyon or two, but time is flying by. And like you, I found new, impressive life from digitalized slides, you may recall those form our 1967 cross country trip (the series start is at http://wp.me/p37YEI-yN ) and I recall your noting we passed nearby where you live in California. Those photos and that series landed me a “Best Contributing Author Award” for the series and the photos, published in a national MGB Driver magazine. A bronze plaques hangs (all by itself :-(,) on my wall here. Your re-processed images above are awesome. M 🙂

    • Thanks, M. We visited Zion twice: in 1975 and in 1994. And we spent some time in Arches in 1985. But we haven’t made it to Canyonlands yet. I remember well your postings on your 1967 trip. Your bronze plaque is well-deserved!

  8. great country! The sixth one down is a fantastic view! And thank you for the accompanying story!

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