It happened 65 million years ago, in what would eventually become the American southwest. Subterranean turbulence forced up massive layers of rock, warping Earth’s crust with hundreds of miles of ridge. This one-hundred-mile-long and very narrow national park runs north to south along Highway 24 through south-central Utah at Fremont River Canyon. Come along as we tour Capitol Reef National Park — a geological treasure, a mystical oasis, and a must-see destination along your motorcycle journey.
The Story of Capitol Reef
Way out there in the desert, in the gut of the Beehive State, rise towering domed peaks shaped by millions of years of erosion. Pioneers likened these domes to that of Washington D.C.’s Capitol Building, and thus this fantastic ridge with its nearly impassable peaks of up to 1,000 feet received its official name.
Before them, settlers called this region Waterpocket Fold. They cherished it for the deep recesses among the peaks that collected precious water. Before them, the Peyotes called it the Land of the Sleeping Rainbow. And before them, prehistoric nomads who settled the region carved their stories on the walls of Capitol Reef’s canyons.
The lifeblood of the Peyotes was yucca that grew wild and plenty. It was harvested as an important source of food, fiber and drink. And the seeds of wildflowers lie dormant throughout the valley, waiting up to 10 years for sufficient moisture to burst forth and paint the floor with remarkable color.
What to see
In the 1980s members of the Mormon faith migrated to and settled Fremont River Valley. They developed flushing orchards and called the region Fruita, a welcome oasis in the often brutal desert. Their produce and hospitality was given to travelers, outlaws, and all forms of humanity. However, the Mormons started to leave in 1937, and were almost entirely gone by the start of World War II.
Although the residents of Capitol Reef have mostly left, Fruita remains an oasis to wildlife and visitors. The garden in the desert still blooms, and plays host annually to thousands of travelers, who come for hiking, horseback riding, fruit picking, and tours of Mormon homesteads.
Take a ride or a walk through Cathedral Valley, and discover the essential landmarks that continue to marvel visitors. Gaze up in awe at Chimney Rock and The Castle, or watch night fall at Temple of the Moon and day break at Temple of the Sun. However you choose to enjoy Capitol Reef National Park, just do yourself a favor and get here!