Michael A. Stecker

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Capital Reef National Park
Sixty-five million years ago, while forces inside the earth were pushing up the Colorado Plateau, a 90-mile-long break in the earth's mantle was formed in what is now south-central Utah. Thousands of feet of subterranean sedimentary rock were thus forced upward. As the fold developed, twisting and buckling resulted in a convoluted range of mountains we now call the Waterpocket Fold (called a monocline by geologists). Today, after a great deal of erosion, the mountains rise less than two thousand feet above the desert floor and extends from the Fishlake Mountains in central Utah to Lake Powell (Colorado River) in the south. Most is preserved in Capitol Reef National Park, which contains multicoloured cliffs, canyons, arches, spires and domes. The park gets its name "Capital" from the many whitish sandstone domes that resemble the U.S. Capital building, while "Reef" refers to the high uplifted ridge running north-south along the fold. Its main road (Utah Hwy 24) from Fruita to Torrey crosses the park east-west. It gives you a general idea of its nature and passes close to several of the most famous named features, such as the deep twisting canyon formed by Sulphur Creek, Freemont River and Hickman Bridge. However, it is well worth the time to drive the ten mile scenic toll-road which follows the reef itself past huge multicolored cliffs and Capital Dome. The road ends at the start of a narrow steep-walled canyon (Capital Gorge) that extends for several miles south. A foot trail runs along its base and passes some ancient Indian petroglyphs. The park, second largest in Utah, is much less visited than others because of its remote location.

Capital Reef Photos
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an enlargement