Capturing the Canyons: Capitol Reef National Park

 In MOA Features

Despite being one of the largest national park in the state of Utah, Capitol Reef is perhaps the least-known. Though the area is known mostly as beautiful settlement for the early Mormon settlers, the area in Capitol Reef extends into backcountry filled with desert terrain, cliffs and arches, and desert oases. In fact, the park is situated in the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile-long wrinkle in the earth’s surface, which causes the amazing geological wonders found therein.

The earliest people left wall drawings, which are still clearly visible on easy-to-access trails throughout the park. Puebloans and later, Paiute peoples made the area of Capitol Reef their home. In the late 1800s, Mormon pioneers traveled into Central Utah, establishing the towns of Loa, Grover, and Fruita, and other settlements within the Capitol Reef area. Their orchards are still in Capitol Reef and visitors can harvest and eat the fruits by paying a small fee at the visitors center.

Capitol Reef is given its name by the unique white cliffs and the white dome that resembles the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. Other cliffs are a rainbow of colors, from the creamy white to deep crimson to sunny yellow. Other sites within the park include the Fremont Petroglyphs referenced above, and the Cathedral Valley. Truly a unique park with many types of terrain, Capitol Reef is not to be missed.

23 - Ed Mell - Storm Remnants, 18 x 24, oil on linen, 200 (1)

Ed Mell, “Storm Remnants,” 2000, oil on linen. Courtesy of the artist. This piece is on display in the “Capturing the Canyons: Artists in the National Parks” exhibition at the BYU MOA.

Fast Facts about Capitol Reef:

Year established as a National Park: 1971
Visitors in 2014 (last recorded year available): 786,514
Size: 381 square miles
Highest elevation in the park: 8,960 ft., near Billing’s Pass 
Lowest elevation in the park: 3,877 ft., near Hall’s Creek
Fun fact #1: The original proposed name was “Wayne’s Wonderland National Park,” as it is located in Wayne County, Utah.
Fun fact #2: The town of Fruita is located fully inside the National Park, and is a federally-run town.


Learn more about Capitol Reef National Park at the National Park Service website!
Learn more about the Capturing the Canyons: Artists in the National Parks exhibition!


Top image: National Park Service Photo

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