Saturday, April 27, 2013

Capitol Reef National Park

 Capitol Reef NP is sometimes overlooked because Zion, Bryce and Arches get all the attention but it's the most unique of all of them for it has Waterpocket Fold geology.

The fold is difficult to describe but....instead of the earth shifting, like normal, the Pacific Plate from the west "folded" the earth so that the layers folded above the surface. Very unusual. See illustration below.

Capitol Reef encompasses the Waterpocket Fold, a warp in the earth's crust that is 65 million years old. It is the largest exposed monocline in North America. In this fold, newer and older layers of earth folded over each other in an S-shape. This warp, probably caused by the same colliding continental plates that created the Rocky Mountains, has weathered and eroded over millennia to expose layers of rock and fossils. The park is filled with brilliantly colored sandstone cliffs, gleaming white domes, and contrasting layers of stone and earth.
The area was named for a line of white domes and cliffs of Navajo Sandstone, each of which looks somewhat like the United States Capitol building, that run from the Fremont River to Pleasant Creek on the Waterpocket Fold.
The fold forms a north-to-south barrier that even today has barely been breached by roads. Early settlers referred to parallel, impassable ridges as "reefs", from which the park gets the second half of its name. The first paved road was constructed through the area in 1962. Today, State Route 24 cuts through the park traveling east and west between Canyonlands National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, but few other paved roads invade the rugged landscape.

Terrific three-dimensional map of the entire 100+ Waterpocket Fold of the park in the Visitor's Center, which is right about where those ladies are looking. You are looking from the south.
The park is filled with canyons, cliffs, towers, domes, and arches. The Fremont River has cut canyons through parts of the Waterpocket Fold, but most of the park is arid desert country. A scenic drive shows park visitors some of the highlights, but it runs only a few miles from the main highway. Hundreds of miles of trails and unpaved roads lead the more adventurous into the equally scenic backcountry.

The Castle

View looking north from the Visitor's Center. You can see five geologic layers.

Here are the five layers most predominant in the park...from the bottom starting with Moenkopi, then Shinarump, Chinle (this is the greenish layer), Wingate Sandstone (this is the tall shiny walls), and Navajo Sandstone.

Moenkopi on the very bottom, then Chinle above it (the gray-green layer), then the dark brown Shinarump layer, then Wingate Sandstone at the very top. 
These whitish peaks are Navajo Sandstone. This is the layer above the Wingate Sandstone.

Check out this rock...what interesting patterns....never seen this before. The Ranger told us what caused it but I did not understand her explanation so I cannot pass it on.

You can see the tilt of the fold real well here...we're looking north along the fold.

Just some more fantastic rocks.

This "spider-like" web is gypsum.

Some marvelous colors on these rocks right next to the road. We had to stop and take pictures.

The holes are created by water that has seeped down from top, hit a non-permeable layer and went horizontal creating the holes.

Many, many hikes and drives in order to see the vastness of this park. If you have a jeep or 4-wheel drive you can see even more. One to two weeks would be great. 
We've posted lots more photos here if you are interested:

Thanks for viewing. 
Kim and Steve 

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