Thursday, July 8, 2010

Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef

Multicolored sandstone strata in the walls of Capitol Gorge
(unretouched, honest!)

The western entrance to Capitol GorgeCan you believe this was once the main road through Capitol Reef in the early 20th century?

Only three canyons penetrate the Waterpocket Fold allowing east-west passage without having to ascend and descend hundreds of feet over all-but-impassible terrain: the Fremont River Canyon, the contemporary route bearing UT 24 through the reef, Grand Wash (watch for a post in a few days), and Capitol Gorge, the preferred route in the early 20th century. At that time, the bed of the wash was cleared of boulders and cars regularly attempted the "road."

Today, Capitol Gorge is the location of a 4-mile hiking trail that allows walkers to penetrate through the heart of the Waterpocket Fold. Most hikers start at the western end and hike two miles into the gorge, where a side trail leads to some of the namesake waterpockets, or tanks. Along the way, hikers can enjoy Native American pictographs, a trail registry carved into the cliff wall by early travelers, and a profusion of wildflowers, especially in early spring, when we visited.



Despite the area's aridity, Capitol Gorge was carved by water. High up on one of the walls was an alcove carved by flowing water bearing boulders that ground out a little hollow. I don't know if these grinding boulders have remained in that alcove for the many thousands of years since the floodwaters eroded the main channel six feet deeper, leaving the alcove and the boulders high and dry above the bed of the wash, or whether they were tossed there by tourists playing basketball with stones.


Detail of sediments exposed in the sandstone cliff wall

One of the namesake waterpockets (lower right)

5 comments:

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

I really enjoyed this post, and loved the excellent photos. This is one area of the country I've never, but always wanted to, visit—now even more. I'm looking for to your next post.

Ray's Cowboy said...

In the dessert you can get under a shade to cool off. He is the Metorplex you can not. I thinkthe pictures are nice.
Thank you
Ray

茂慧茂慧 said...
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Scott said...

Grizz, thanks for your feedback. It means a lot to me. I'm nearly through with my "Southern Utah" series, but creating the posts brings back good memories of the trip.

Scott said...

Ray, my images may give the impression of shade in the southern Utah canyon country, but shade was a precious commodity, as it sounds like it is in the Metroplex. My tan got a wee bit darker each day despite my exposed skin being slathered in SPF 75. Thanks for staying in touch.