Ken's Journal
No. 4 - Summer 2004

Capitol Reef National Park - Torrey, Utah - 07/17 - 07/21/2004
Days 21-25 on the road. Part I.

  Capitol Reef is like an 'un-advertised special'. It's hidden in the shadow of it's much more famous neighbors, Bryce, Zion, Arches and Canyonlands. It is a little gem though. The nearest town is Torrey, Utah at the intersection of Utah State Routes 12 and 24.

Capitol Reef is in what's called the Waterpocket Fold. The Waterpocket Fold is a giant wrinkle in the Earth's crust that stretches for 100 miles across south-central Utah. Within Capitol Reef is one of the earliest Mormon settlements, Fruita, established along the Fremont River in the late 1800s. After Capitol Reef National Monument (now Park) was set aside in 1937, the Mormon farmers and their families gradually moved away. The Park Service has no explanation for this migration. Among the artifacts the Mormons left are a number of fruit orchards now maintained by the Park Service. You can pick and eat fruit free of charge while there, but there is a minimal fee for any fruit you take with you.

The general public can see the main features of Capitol Reef along a 25 mile round-trip paved Scenic Drive. Unlike Bryce where you drive along the rim of the canyon and look down, at Capitol Reef you drive at the bottom of the canyons and look up! Capitol Reef is some 69 miles long north to south, 13 miles wide at it's widest  and only 2 miles wide at the narrowest.  The Scenic Drive runs north to south so obviously at 12 mile long, covers very little of the park. Although there are many hiking trails in Capitol Reef, most of the good ones are in the strenuous category and are in areas where hiking by yourself is not a good thing to do. Besides, I was in the mood for driving, not hiking.

The Capitol Reef Scenic Drive starts at the Visitor Center, 11 miles east of Torrey on Utah SR24. But even just on SR24, the scenery is spectacular!


 This is called the Castle and is right along SR24 inside the park but before you reach the visitor's center..

Another view from along SR24. This is an unnamed butte.

Just another red cliff.

This feature is called the Golden Throne - because when the light shines on it the right way - the color is golden - as in this picture.


A view to the north from the Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef.

This is a Chukar (Alectoris chukar). This is an Old World species from Europe that was introduced to North America as a game bird. The Chukar thrives in the rocky, arid, mountainous regions of the west. This one was in a flock of some two dozen.

This is a reconstruction of one of the Mormon buildings. How would you like to wake up every morning to a scene like that?

This is one of the local lizards. I don't have a reptile book so don't have the official name for it. I'll call it Brownie for now. I was taking pictures of a restored Mormon schoolhouse early one morning and caught Brownie sunning himself on the logs. I didn't have a long lens on the camera but, I suppose because of the chill, he let me get quite close with a normal lens - perhaps within a foot or so.

This is a Marmot. Basically it's the west's version of a Ground Hog. This curious one was perched on a rocky outcrop beside a scenic overlook on Utah SR12 south of Torrey.



More to follow - Stand by for Part II


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