Capitol Reef National Park surrounds a long crease in the earth called the Waterpocket Fold. This gigantic wrinkle extends for 90 miles, from the Thousand Lake Mountain in the north to the Colorado River in the south. This is one of North America’s largest classicc monocline or stairstep folds.
280 million years ago, the landscape was covered with oceans, deserts, swamps, and riverbeds. This gave rise to nearly 10,000 feet of sedimentary rock made of limestone, sandstone and shale.
Between 50 and 70 million years ago, tectonic activity led to the upliftment of the earth layers. The layers west of the fault rose by more than 7,000 feet as opposed to their eastern counterparts. Rather than cracking, the rock layers folded over the fault line. Erosive forces started carving between 1 and 6 million years ago creating layers of golden sandstone, canyons and unique rock formations such as domes, arches and pinnacles. You can see many of these formations as you drive through Capitol Reef National Park.
Effects of Erosion
The 8 mile Scenic Drive takes you across stunning views and a plethora of colors. Flash floods, torrential rain and freeze-thaw cycles are the primary agents of erosion in Capitol Reef National Park. They lead to the formation of waterpockets and potholes that in turn collect the rainwater and snowmelt, sustaining a rich and nourishing ecosystem.
Golden Throne is a rock dome formation in Capitol Reef made of Navajo sandstone. Normally, sandstone is creamy white or red. However the presence of a small amount of Carmel Formation stains the sandstone golden.
After driving past Golden Throne, visitors enter a narrow canyon (off limits during rains in Capitol Reef). The road is unpaved and rough from this point forward and takes you along South Draw and Pleasant Creek.
The Castle is made of fractured Wingate Sandstone situated upon grey Chinle and red Moenkopi formations. This is one of the main highlights in Capitol Reef National Park.
Dedicated to the Mormon settlers of Fruita, this orchard was planted in Capitol Reef National Park by archaeologist Kent Jackson. His dedication and historical knowledge led to the creation of the Fruita Rural Historical District in 1993.
The orchards have apple, peach, cherry, pear, plum, apricot and almond trees. Visitors may pick and eat as many fruits as they like on the premises, but have to pay a nominal fee to take away any fruits.