On December 18th 1971, Capitol Reef National Park was created to protect a geologic feature–the Waterpocket Fold–an 87-mile long warp in the Earth’s crust. This feature can be seen on our Waterpocket Fold Tour.
The unique feature was created through a series of geological events. First, nearly 10,000 feet of sedimentary strata were deposited in the Capitol Reef area. These rocks range in age from Permian (as old as 270 million years old) to Cretaceous (as young as 80 million years old.) After that, upheaval beneath the earth’s crust caused this deposited material to fold, hence the name the Waterpocket Fold.
The upheaval exposed layers of sedimentary rock, making visible nearly 200 million years of geologic history. Rock layers in Capitol Reef reveal ancient environments as varied as rivers and swamps (Chinle Formation), Sahara-like deserts (Navajo Sandstone), and shallow oceans (Mancos Shale) all in Capitol Reef. The fold exposes colorful cliffs and incredible rock formations.
The name “Capitol Reef” actually comes from some of these geologic features that can be seen on all of our tours. You will see large white domes of Navajo Sandstone that resemble capitol buildings, and rocky cliffs that resemble coral reefs.
From archaic hunters and gatherers to farmers of corn, beans, and squash, many cultures have settled in Capitol Reef. You might be able to spot petroglyphs, or etchings that remain protected here that show the Native people’s lifestyles and experiences.
In the 1800s, those Natives were pushed out by Mormon pioneers that planted orchards of over 2,700 trees including apples, pears, cherries, and peaches. Many of these historic orchards remain today and you can explore those in the Park as well!
Capitol Reef is one of the least developed National Parks in the country, and much of it is only accessible by off-road equipped vehicles (like ours). Book one of our Jeep Tours today to experience Capitol Reef the right way! Our guides are experts on the geology, ecosystems, and history that makes Capitol Reef so special.