The Fruita area was originally settled by the Fremont Indian Culture between 600-1300 AD, who
left their petroglyphs on the Wingate Sandstone cliff faces. In 1880, the first Mormon settlement
was started in the valley by Nels Johnson, who was joined by others to form the community they
called Junction. In 1902, the name of this remote settlement was changed to Fruita based upon
the fruit of their famed orchards of this Eden in the Desert, widely known across Southern Utah.

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Scenic Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


Direct Link to the Capitol Reef National Park gallery:

Capitol Reef


Gifford Barn Capitol Reef 1463
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In the heart of the Fruita Valley is the Gifford Homestead and Barn, built in 1908 by the
first owner of the ranch, the polygamist Calvin Pendleton, whose family lived here for 8 years.


Gifford Homestead Capitol Reef 5839
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The Gifford Barn and Ranch House in the Fruita Valley. The Pendletons sold the farm to Jorgen Jorgenson in 1916.


Gifford Homestead Capitol Reef 5841
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Jorgenson lived on the homestead until 1928. He sold it to his son-in-law Dewey Gifford, who stayed until 1969.


Gifford Barn Capitol Reef 5846
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Gifford Barn and Homestead under a massive Wingate Sandstone cliff in the Fruita Valley.

The Giffords were the last residents of Fruita. In the late 1960s, the National Park Service
purchased private land in Fruita as part of the Mission 66 program, building a campground,
staff housing, and Visitor’s Center, as visitation had increased due to the newly paved road.


Gifford Barn Capitol Reef 7160
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The orchards beyond the Gifford Barn are populated by apple, cherry, peach, pear and apricot trees.


Gifford Barn Capitol Reef 7168
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The Giffords also raised dairy cows, sheep, hogs, chickens and ducks, and produced a variety of vegetables on the farm.


Gifford Barn Capitol Reef 7166
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The Gifford Barn was built in 1908 by the first resident of the homestead, and was used
until Dewey Gifford finally left the Fruita area for Torrey in 1969. It is maintained by the NPS.


Cultivator Fruita Capitol Reef 1467
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A wagon and cultivator standing in the Johnson orchard.


Farm Wagon Fruita Capitol Reef 1527
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An earlier, iron-shod wooden farm wagon in Fruita.

Until 1940, oxen and horse-drawn teams were used to power the implements in Fruita.


Merin Smith Shed Capitol Reef 1464
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Merin Smith constructed this implement shed and blacksmith shop in 1925.
He purchased the first tractor in Fruita (the “Power Horse”), which stands inside.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Scenic Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


Direct Link to the Capitol Reef National Park gallery:

Capitol Reef


Fruita Schoolhouse Capitol Reef 1468
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The Fruita Schoolhouse was built in 1896 on land donated by Elijah Cutler Behunin,
who built the schoolhouse along with other Fruita residents. Behunin was the leader of
the group of pioneers who cleared the wagon trail through Capitol Gorge which allowed
settlers and others to pass more easily though the Waterpocket Fold. His 12 year old
daughter Nettie was the first schoolteacher in the one-room Fruita Schoolhouse.


Fruita Schoolhouse Capitol Reef 7285
(1008 KB)

The building originally had a flat dirt-covered roof (the peaked, shingled roof was added in 1912-13). Nettie’s first class in the chinked-log schoolhouse had 22 students.


Fruita Schoolhouse Capitol Reef 7290
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The schoolhouse also served as a meeting house and church. Classes of varying sizes and grades continued until 1941, when the remaining students were bussed to Torrey.


Mule Deer in Velvet Capitol Reef 7231
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In the Johnson Orchard, located on the site of Nels Johnson’s original homestead in Fruita,
Mule Deer in full velvet (vascular skin coating the antlers) browse amongst fruit and nut trees.


Mule Deer in Velvet Capitol Reef 7234
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Mule Deer are often seen in the orchards of Fruita, attracting mountain lions.


Mule Deer in Velvet Capitol Reef 7247
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Mule Deer in Velvet Capitol Reef 7253
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Mule Deer are the most prevalent large mammal in Capitol Reef National Park.


Mule Deer in Velvet Capitol Reef 7272
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Mule Deer in Velvet browse amongst fruit and nut trees in the Johnson Orchard in Fruita.


Mule Deer in Velvet Capitol Reef 7276
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These Mule Deer were shot during a late August session while I was training
a group of photographers on scenic photographic techniques. They gave the
students a serendipitous opportunity at wildlife photography and big smiles.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Scenic Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


Direct Link to the Capitol Reef National Park gallery:

Capitol Reef


Fremont Culture Petroglyphs
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

On the Wingate Sandstone cliff face beside Highway 24 in the Fruita area
are several groups of Fremont Culture petroglyphs, accessible by a boardwalk.

The Fremont people were a diverse set of groups who were contemporaries of the
Anasazi but lived a different sort of lifestyle. Most were small bands of hunters, foragers
and corn farmers who lived in small pit house villages, moving every few years, however, in
a few places they created large stable villages. Their artifacts were varied and there were
few similarities between groups other than their use of moccasins rather than the sandals
of the Anasazi and the fact that they retained the hunter/gatherer culture, farming part-time.
They did have a typical pottery style and their petroglyph designs were quite distinctive.
The Fremont culture began about 2500 years ago and flourished until the culture
gradually disappeared between 1250-1500 AD, as did the Anasazi culture.


Fremont Anthropomorphs Capitol Reef 7294
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The Anthropomorph panel at the Fruita Petroglyph Cliff depicts several trapezoidal-bodied
anthropomorphic figures in headdresses. Some have square featureless heads, some have
trapezoidal featureless heads, one has a square head with eyes and a nose, and several have
no head at all... just a neck with the headdress growing out of it. Bighorn Sheep are cavorting
around and above each of the figures, and there are a number of symbols on the panel.
Trapezoidal bodies are typical of the Classic Vernal style of Fremont petroglyph.
The earbobs on some of the figures were derived from Anasazi petroglyphs.

Many panels on this Wingate Sandstone cliff exhibit significant gunfire damage.

These images were taken two years apart, at different times of day, in different light
and with different cameras and lenses. This is a selection of three of the six images
of this panel which are available. The light, composition and image character differ.


Fremont Anthropomorphs Capitol Reef 1477
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A number of petroglyph panels like this have been interpreted as shamanistic hunting magic. This is still controversial...


Fremont Anthropomorphs Capitol Reef 5856
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Some of the other experts interpret these glyphs as a travel metaphor or as a ceremony or event. No one really knows...


Fremont Anthropomorph Sheep Capitol Reef 1479
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“Ice Cream Cone” anthropomorph with a trapezoidal body and head and a style of headdress different than typical Fremont curved horns (this headdress has two curved arcs, as does that of the petroglyph to its right shown further below), with a Bighorn Sheep figure above its head. Two open arcs in sign language or petroglyphs usually translate as empty space or a similar concept depending on context, so this symbol may be saying that the anthropomorph is an ‘airhead’.   :^)


Fremont Kokopelli Capitol Reef 1484c
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Kokopelli is a spirit figure dating back over 3000 years. Often represented as a humpbacked anthropomorphic insect with a flute (and sometimes a huge phallus), Kokopelli is a fertility deity (childbirth, agriculture and game reproduction), a healer, a prankster and is also the spirit of  music. The name derives from the Hopi name for the deity (Koko: wood, Pilau: hump). There are numerous myths associated with Kokopelli, and  his image has become a universal symbol of the Southwest. The hump is said to represent the bag of seeds and the songs he carries from place to place in his travels.


Fremont Petroglyphs Capitol Reef 7306
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This image shows the context of the Kokopelli petroglyph to the panel in which it resides.
Kokopelli is in the upper left of the panel, presiding over a series of different anthropomorphs
in headdresses, symbols, and a rabbit (below left). Note the cruder anthropomorph (lower right).
Several detail images of each of the anthropomorphic figures in this panel are shown below.

Some interpretations of the flute-player petroglyph do not identify it with Kokopelli.
Information on petroglyph interpretation is spotty and is sometimes contradictory.


Fremont Petroglyphs Capitol Reef 5865
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The horns on these anthropomorphs are thought to represent Shamanistic or supernatural powers, and may have derived from the earlier Barrier Canyon style petroglyphs.


Fremont Petroglyphs Capitol Reef 5875
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Detail of the two anthropomorphs on the left of the panel. The horns are similar to antlers, and the doubled horns on the left in many cases represents a figure with special power.


Fremont Anthropomorph Capitol Reef 7310
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Close detail of the central anthropomorph. Note the brow, nose and eye, the circular head and the rounded body style of this petroglyph. This anthropomorphic body shape is similar to that of the Barrier Canyon rock art of the Archaic period.


Petroglyph Cliff Sandstone Capitol Reef 1478
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Detail of a section of the Wingate Sandstone cliff face over the section on which the Fruita Petroglyphs are carved. This superbly figured sandstone is typical of many of the rock formations in Capitol Reef National Park.


Fremont Anthropomorph Capitol Reef 1485
(537 KB)


Fremont Anthropomorph Capitol Reef 5867
(647 KB)

The images above show a symbol often interpreted as an Anthropomorph in Headdress, shot in different
light (with different cameras) and a two year gap between images. Note that the flake below the symbol has
broken off in the intervening two years. Besides damage and loss which is sometimes caused by people,
the freezing and thawing of ice every year expands cracks and causes eventual loss of the petroglyphs.

This far cruder image (detail of the lower right anthropomorph from the panel shown above) seems to
have been created later than the rest of the panel based upon sharper incision and lack of desert varnish.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Scenic Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


Direct Link to the Capitol Reef National Park gallery:

Capitol Reef


Fremont Anthropomorph Capitol Reef 7299
(763 KB)

This anthropomorph has hairbobs (or earrings) derived from Anasazi petroglyphs, and a rounded upper head shape. There are snake symbols across the chest of the petroglyph.


Fremont Anthropomorph Capitol Reef 7299 inversion
(564 KB)

The same image, with a channel-balanced conversion to grayscale, and a  level adjusted inversion to improve contrast. This technique allows examination of faint, low-contrast detail.

Petroglyphs can be exceptionally challenging to photograph, and some are very difficult
to process and achieve good legibility and contrast. In some cases, more detail can be
discerned by performing a channel-balanced grayscale conversion and a level-adjusted
inversion in post-processing. Some of the other faint, low-contrast images processed
in this way are displayed on this page. Several others are displayed on Petroglyph
pages specific to a particular venue (Monument Valley and Chaco Culture).


Fremont Petroglyphs Capitol Reef 5874
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A series of medicine symbols and a Bighorn Sheep along with a symbol often interpreted as a Cactus or Cholla plant. A series like this is generally interpreted as a travel or hunt story.


Fremont Petroglyph Capitol Reef 1492
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Detail of the Cactus (or Cholla) petroglyph taken two years earlier.  The cactus interpretation is sometimes disputed, as are a great many interpretations of petroglyphs.


Fremont Petroglyphs Capitol Reef 7308
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Detail of the Bighorn Sheep and Cactus (Cholla) petroglyphs, taken at yet another time.


Fremont Anthropomorph Capitol Reef 5862
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This image of the “ice cream cone” shaped anthropomorph was taken two years after the one shown near the top of the page, framed with foliage and rocks to form a vignette.


Fremont Zoomorphs Capitol Reef 5860
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Detail of a Zoomorph panel illustrating a Bear, a Dog and a Bighorn Sheep, along with several other faint symbols that are difficult to discern.


Fremont Bighorn Sheep Capitol Reef 5855
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Two large Bighorn Sheep petroglyphs share this panel with several symbols. There are
several abstract designs on the right. On the far right are two symbols that are similar to
Archaic petroglyphs. Just left of these there appears to be a rabbit popping out of a hat
(I have been unable to determine what this stylized petroglyph may be). Another stylized
symbol is directly behind the central Bighorn Sheep. Considerable searching has not yet
turned up anything to help identify the ‘rabbit in the hat’ or the symbol behind the sheep.


Fremont Anthropomorph Sheep Capitol Reef 5884
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Another image of the “ice cream cone” anthropomorph and the Bighorn Sheep, taken at an angle showing incision depth.


Fremont Anthropomorph Capitol Reef 1496
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The anthropomorph to the right of the “ice cream cone”, with a more traditional body shape and hair bobs, and an arced headdress similar to that of the “ice cream cone”.


Fremont Anthropomorphs Sheep Capitol Reef 1481
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This highly detailed image shows the entire section of the panel with the
two anthropomorphs and the Bighorn Sheep, connected by a field of dots.

In the Indian Lands and Anasazi Sites section is a compilation
which displays Fremont and Anasazi Petroglyphs on a single page.
There are also individual pages on Monument Valley Petroglyphs
and the Chaco Culture National Historical Park Petroglyphs.


Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Scenic Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.


Direct Link to the Capitol Reef National Park gallery:

Capitol Reef


Click the Display Composite above to return to the Capitol Reef Index page


Click the Display Composite above to return to the Southwest Index page