Capitol Reef National Park
November 2, 2016
After having explored Canyonlands National Park until late in the afternoon, we left early on Wednesday, November 2 to drive to Capitol Reef National Park. We left Moab at 6:30 and drove to Green River, Utah and had breakfast at the very nice West Winds Restaurant. We then drove down Utah Hwy 24, reaching Capitol Reef National Park about noon.
Brenda is at Panorama Point near the western edge of Capitol Reef National Park. Our earlier exploration of the park is detailed below, but this was my favorite picture of the afternoon. The vast open spaces and beautiful colors were exhilirating, and I was delighted to be there with Brenda.
About 20 minutes into the park we started seeing these light colored rock domes which contribute part of the Capitol Reef name - they were thought to look like capitol domes. The "reef" part we saw later.
There was quite a variety in the dome structures. Some of them had small domes on top of large ones, which probably was taken as more like capitol domes. The material of the domes is called Navajo sandstone.
We stopped off at the trailhead to Hickman Bridge formation, but didn't have time to consider the hike. My main interest here was for a close view of the Fremont River. In Georgia we would call this a creek, but you have to remember that this is a desert with about 7 inches of precipitation a year, including snow. So here, it is a river.
In the edge of Fruita we stopped at the walls where there were a number of petroglyphs. I was thinking, those are fairly straightforward carvings, but why the peck marks? And then I felt really dumb, because it is obvious that someone used them for target practice before they were protected. It is a strong argument for national parks to protect such artifacts.
We had read a good bit about the orchards of Fruita, but we were surprised at the number and careful organization of them. We saw one on the way into Fruita from the east, and now saw this impressive example as were headed south on the scenic drive after stopping by the visitor center.
"Mormon pioneers planted the historic Fruita orchards beginning in the 1880s. The orchards are managed to preserve their historic character and are watered with an irrigation system essentially in original condition."
We had no idea what to expect as we turned south onto the internal scenic road in Capitol Reef. It was a beautiful wide open road through the red formations, and we had a fine day on which to explore it.
This is the larger context of the uranium mining effort. You can see the two barricaded openings near the bottom of the great wall. The thin yellowish band near the bottom is described as the Shinarump Member of the Chinle Formation, a layer of ancient, river deposited sandstone containing trace amounts of uranium. Note that despite the fact that camping or drinking water in the area is forbidden by the sign, the trail out to these barricaded shafts is well worn. It's hard to supress curiosity!
We reached the end of the dirt road where there was the trailhead for trails leading to the Narrows and to Cassidy Arch. There were several people there preparing to hike on the trails that extended past the end of the road. There was a dome here, the first dome we had seen since we left the eastern entrance road to the park.
This was as close as I could get to finding a single shot to characterize the "reef" that forms a part of the Capitol Reef name. The land reef is a wrinkle in the Earth's surface called the Waterpocket Fold which extends a hundred miles north and south and forms a great barrier to land travel east to west. We traveled through it this morning on Hwy 24 on one of the few roads which penetrate the Waterpocket Fold. That penetration path was associated with the Fremont River.
It really was a nice road to travel on deep into the canyon. But it then turned into a track for offroad vehicles and we turned back, very satisfied with our inner canyon drive. As we were driving back to the paved road, a whole column of four-wheel-drive vehicles were behind us. They had been further into the canyon and I guessed that they had camped there and were just coming out.
We are now back on the paved Scenic Road and ahead of us is one of the concreted depressions to handle the frequent flash floods that apparently wash violently across this terrain. Ahead also is the end of the column of four-wheel vehicles. I had pulled over to let them pass since they seemed to be in a hurry.
The trees beside the road in the distance signaled the presence of the Fremont River and the fact that we were approaching Fruita. We had enjoyed the scenic drive in a national park which we barely knew existed until a few weeks ago.
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