CapitolReefScenics

The rock formations in Capitol Reef National Park are part of the Waterpocket Fold, with sedimentary
strata laid down between 300 million and 100 million years ago. The entire area was once the site of
an ancient shallow sea, but the area went through several climate changes which are reflected in the
various forms of sedimentary rock visible in the Park. Some exceptional formations are present
 in Capitol Reef NP, exposing rock layers from the Permian, Triassic and Jurassic periods.

The Capitol Reef section is split into three pages. Images of some of the named formations
are on this page and on the Scenic Drive page, with each page showing different scenes.
Other formations and areas are present on one or the other page. Fruita has its own page.

Click an image to open a larger version.
Use your back button to return to this page.

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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.

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Direct Link to the Capitol Reef National Park gallery:

Capitol Reef

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Capitol Reef View Boulder Mountain 1554
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The view east towards the Miners Mountain uplift and the Henry Mountains from
the Larb Hollow Overlook on Boulder Mountain, near the end of Scenic Byway 12.

This image is at the top of both of the Capitol Reef Scenic pages.

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Juniper Panorama Point Capitol Reef 5789
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A Juniper erupts from a group of boulders made of Moenkopi Formation sandstone on Panorama Point in Capitol Reef.

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Juniper Panorama Point Capitol Reef 5812
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A Juniper standing close to Sulfur Creek Canyon, near the Goosenecks Overlook at the end of Panorama Point.

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Juniper Panorama Point Capitol Reef 5791
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An ancient gnarled Juniper stretches its roots to maintain its precarious foothold atop
the red rocks and boulders of the Moenkopi Formation sandstone of Panorama Point.

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Goosenecks Capitol Reef 5817
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The deeply incised meanders of Sulfur Creek form the Goosenecks, seen here from the end of Panorama Point.

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Goosenecks Capitol Reef 5823
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These two angles (with and without the tree) were taken from different positions at the Goosenecks Overlook.

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Goosenecks Capitol Reef 1359
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The Sulfur Creek Goosenecks taken on a different visit to Capitol Reef.
In the distance is the Thousand Lake Mountain and the Waterpocket Fold.

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Panorama Point Capitol Reef 1362
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A detail shot of the Sulfur Creek Canyon Wall at the upper center of the previous image.
Sulfur Creek cut deeply into siltstone, sandstone and mudstone of the Moenkopi Formation
which was laid down during the wet tropical period of the early Triassic. The rock shows a
deep red distinctly layered surface which can be seen in many of the named formations.
Beyond the canyon wall are the colorful formations below Thousand Lake Mountain.

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Goosenecks Capitol Reef 5794
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The Goosenecks of Sulfur Creek taken from the far right of the Goosenecks Overlook, with a 20% polarization setting.

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Goosenecks Capitol Reef 5799
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The Goosenecks of Sulfur Creek, shot with a 50% setting of a polarizing filter to increase contrast and color saturation.

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Goosenecks Capitol Reef 5811
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The Sulfur Creek Goosenecks taken from a position a little further to the left
with a 10% setting of a polarizing filter, 15 minutes later (mid-morning in late August).

Sulfur Creek Canyon cuts 800 feet deep into the Moenkopi sandstone, the oldest of
the Capitol Reef strata. The canyon floor is Permian Age rock, White Rim Sandstone
and Kaibab Limestone (lighter layers below the red Moenkopi Formation at the rim).

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Goosenecks Capitol Reef 1360
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This shot down into the Sulfur Creek Goosenecks was taken while hanging over the extreme left edge of the overlook.

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Goosenecks Capitol Reef 1361
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Sulfur Creek Canyon is a popular scrambling river hike, with three small waterfalls and several minor rock obstacles.

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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.

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Direct Link to the Capitol Reef National Park gallery:

Capitol Reef

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Juniper Titmouse Capitol Reef 1368
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A Juniper Titmouse searching for food amongst the scree on Panorama Point in Capitol Reef National Park.

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Plateau Lizard Capitol Reef 1372
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A Plateau Side-Blotched Lizard checking out the passing photographer atop a sandstone ledge on Panorama Point.

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Solution Pocket Capitol Reef 1373
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The Plateau Lizard was looking for water in this solution pocket, but the pocket was dry
until I poured him some of my water in exchange for taking his photograph. Pay is relative.

Solution pockets are formed when water removes loosely cemented sand grains over time.

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Solution Pockets Capitol Reef 1355
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A complex group of solution pockets in Moenkopi Formation rock near the Chimney Rock formation in Capitol Reef.

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Trail Cairn Capitol Reef 1498
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A Trail Cairn (marker) on the trail leading to the Navajo Dome formation. Cairns mark the trail where it crosses slickrock.

—  Geological interlude  —

Capitol Reef National Park encompasses and is defined by the Waterpocket Fold, a 100 mile long warp in the Earth’s crust. The Waterpocket Fold is a monocline (a step formed in the rock layers), where layers on the west side were uplifted 7000 feet above the layers on the east. Between 50 and 70 million years ago, the major mountain-building uplift event in North America reactivated a buried fault, causing the monocline. More recent uplift of the Colorado Plateau and erosion exposed the fold.

Early Triassic-period Moenkopi Formation shale and sandstone layers are fossil-rich layers laid down in wet tropical climates. The deep-red lowest layer (Black Dragon Member), laid down during a period when the area was a coastal plain and tidal flat, is topped by the yellowish Sinbad Limestone Member layer, laid down when an arm of the sea covered the area. When the arm of the sea retreated, the tidal flat returned creating a reddish-brown layer known as the Torrey Member. The top two layers are the Moody Canyon Member formed of red-brown and red-orange siltstone. Moenkopi layers are prominent in formations such as the Egyptian Temple, Mummy Cliff, and Chimney Rock.

The late Triassic-period Chinle Formation layers were laid down during a period when Utah was covered with a complex, fast moving system of braided streams. The Chinle Formation is rich in uranium salts, volcanic ash and petrified wood. The lowest layer is the uranium-rich Shinarump Member, which forms capstones over Moekopi layers on formations such as Chimney Rock and the Egyptian Temple. The grayish layer above this contains clay formed when the slower-moving streams carried volcanic ash, sand and lime ooze. This is the Monitor Butte Member, visible as the gray streaks and humps below The Castle, the Fluted Wall and Grand Wash cliffs, and above the Mummy Cliff and Moenkopi Formations. The slow-moving rivers and streams of the later Triassic-period formed the reddish-orange layers of the Petrified Forest Member, often seen as a shallow cliff halfway between Moenkopi layers and the Wingate Sandstone cliffs on formations such as The Castle and the Grand Wash Cliffs. At the end of the Triassic, a series of lakes covered the area, leaving behind purple and orange mudstone, sandstone and siltstone of the Owl Rock Member, which is often partially obscured under Wingate Sandstone rubble from the cliffs above on formations such as The Castle, Grand Wash Cliffs, and the Fluted Wall. Moenkopi and Chinle Formation rock is rich in fossils.

In the early Jurassic-period, the land became increasingly arid, eventually forming an enormous erg (dune-covered desert). The sediments laid down during this period formed the Wingate, Kayenta and Navajo Sandstone formations which are present at higher elevations in Capitol Reef. Wingate Sandstone forms fluted cliffs on formations such as The Castle, Grand Wash Cliffs and the Fluted Wall. A short humid period with slow-moving streams created the sand, silt and mudstones which formed the Kayenta Formation sandstone. The enormous erg that was created during the arid, windy period which followed created the largest sand dunes on Earth, which later fossilized to form the Navajo Sandstone layers which eroded into the rounded domes seen below as well as many of the curving canyons and monoliths seen on other pages in the Southwest section.

—  end of Geological interlude  —

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Capitol Dome Capitol Reef 1525
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Capitol Dome, a part of the Navajo Formation, provided the name for Capitol Reef. Early settlers with nautical experience saw the cliffs as a barrier to travel, and called it a Reef.

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Navajo Dome Capitol Reef 1502
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Navajo Dome is also a part of the Navajo Formation. Navajo sandstone was formed from ancient sand dunes, and erodes in smooth contours, often forming rounded domes.

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Navajo Dome Capitol Reef 1500
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Navajo Sandstone domes in Capitol Reef were formed from the largest sand dunes on Earth.
In the late Triassic period, this entire area was a Sahara-like Desert with enormous sand dunes.

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Navajo Dome Capitol Reef 1499
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Navajo Dome, a Navajo Sandstone formation in Capitol Reef National Park.

The desert whose fossilized dunes formed the Navajo Sandstone is called an Erg.
An erg is an enormous flat dune-covered desert area which has little or no vegetation.

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Ferns Nipple Capitol Reef 5837
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Navajo Sandstone domes rising above the Grand Wash cliffs. The cone-shaped pinnacle at right is called Fern’s Nipple.

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Ferns Nipple Capitol Reef 1396
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The route to Fern’s Nipple is a 10 mile round-trip hike and climb, recommended for fit and well-equipped hikers.

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Pectol’s Pyramid Capitol Reef 1521
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The northern ridge and face of Pectol’s Pyramid, named for Ephraim Portman Pectol,
a Mormon Bishop from Torrey Utah who was elected to the Utah Legislature and who,
along with brother-in-law Joseph S. Hickman (for whom the Hickman Natural Bridge
was named) was instrumental in attracting interest in the area which resulted in
President Roosevelt creating the Capitol Reef National Monument in 1937.

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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.

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Direct Link to the Capitol Reef National Park gallery:

Capitol Reef

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Castle_Capitol_Reef_5831


Castle Capitol Reef 5831
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The Castle is a craggy formation of Wingate Sandstone atop a layered red Moenkopi Formation
base and variegated Chinle Formation sediments near the Visitor’s Center on the Scenic Drive.

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Castle Meadow Capitol Reef 5827
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The Castle from the meadow in the late morning in August.

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Castle Meadow Capitol Reef 7134
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The Castle from the meadow, mid-afternoon six days later.

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Castle Meadow Capitol Reef 1387
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The Castle in Capitol Reef, from the meadow in the mid-morning in late September.

The basalt boulders in the foreground were from 20-30 million year old lava flows on
Boulder Mountain and Thousand Lake Mountain, and were carried down during the
Ice Age when huge wet landslides and debris flows rafted them through the canyons.

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Castle Meadow Capitol Reef 7137
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Basalt boulders in Castle Meadow and The Castle formation, mid-afternoon in late August.

The Castle is a Wingate Sandstone formation standing atop four variegated layers of Chinle
Formation sandstones, from Late Triassic-period streams. The layered red-brown rock rising
at an angle to the left, above the meadow level, is Moenkopi Formation sandstone and shale.

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Snakehead Rock Capitol Reef 7222
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Snakehead Rock provides a vicious-looking bit of shade off the Scenic Drive near Grand Wash.

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Nels Johnson Natural Bridge 1504
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On the Hickman Natural Bridge trail is this small natural bridge named for one of the
earliest settlers in the Fruita area, Nels Johnson, who built the first permanent structure.

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Hickman Natural Bridge Capitol Reef 1506
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The Hickman Natural Bridge is one of the largest rock spans at Capitol Reef, standing
125 feet high and 133 feet between abutments. It is in a side canyon two miles east of the
Visitor’s Center near the Fremont River Bridge. Hickman Bridge was formed when the
Kayenta sandstone was weathered over time by flowing water of the canyon stream.

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Hickman Natural Bridge Capitol Reef 1515
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Hickman Natural Bridge was named for Joseph S. Hickman, a high school principal
who was the brother-in-law of Ephraim Pectol (Bishop of Torrey and a Utah Legislator).
These two men were responsible for the promotions which prompted President Roosevelt
to proclaim the area they called Wayne Wonderland as Capitol Reef National Monument.

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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.

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Direct Link to the Capitol Reef National Park gallery:

Capitol Reef

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Egyptian_Temple_Capitol_Reef_1414


Egyptian Temple Capitol Reef 1414
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The ripple-laminated formation known as the Egyptian Temple is one of the most
interesting rock formations in Capitol Reef National Park. It is formed from Moenkopi
shale and sandstone layers with Shinarump Chinle capstone blocks atop the formation.

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Egyptian Temple Capitol Reef 1433
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The south side and part of the facade of the Egyptian Temple formation, from Egyptian Temple Meadow.

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Egyptian Temple Capitol Reef 1429
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The south side of Egyptian Temple and the erosion cones taken from further back in the meadow.

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Egyptian Temple Capitol Reef 7206
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The Egyptian Temple formation is near the Golden Throne, south on the Scenic Drive from Fruita.

This shot was taken in the late afternoon, when the lowering sun brings out the deep red color
in the Moenkopi Formation sandstone. To get good color from shots taken in the late morning,
such as the two images below taken in the meadow, the shooting angle has to be just right.

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Egyptian Temple Meadow Capitol Reef 1425
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Wingate Sandstone and Moenkopi Formation cliffs above the Egyptian Temple Meadow.

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Egyptian Temple Meadow Capitol Reef 1426
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Moenkopi Formation cliffs above the Egyptian Temple Meadow, taken in the late morning in September.

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Egyptian Temple Meadow Cliffs Capitol Reef 1419
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Wingate Sandstone cliffs in Egyptian Temple Meadow.

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Egyptian Temple Meadow Cliffs Capitol Reef 1417
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Wingate Sandstone cliffs in Egyptian Temple Meadow.

Layers exposed below the rubble-covered Owl Rock Member Chinle slopes below
the Wingate Sandstone cliffs are Petrified Forest Member Chinle sandstone and shale.

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Egyptian Temple Meadow Capitol Reef 1432
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Wingate Sandstone cliffs in Egyptian Temple Meadow, taken in the late morning.

ScenicDrive


Click the Display Composite above for more images of
named formations and scenic areas in Capitol Reef National Park

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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.

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Direct Link to the Capitol Reef National Park gallery:

Capitol Reef

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

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