Waterpocket Fold

Waterpocket Fold Monocline in Capitol Reef National Park

The Waterpocket Fold monocline is a buckle in the earth's surface, nearly 100 miles long, running north- south in the south-central Utah desert from Thousand Lake Mountain near Torrey, Utah, to Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  It is the largest exposed monocline in North America.  Geologists believe the Fold was created by tectonic activity during the Laramide orogeny as the Rocky Mountains were formed, as were other area monoclines including Comb Ridge, the Cockscomb, and Raplee Ridge, anticlines like the San Rafael Swell, and other western US geologic formations.

Capitol Reef National Monument was created by President Roosevelt in 1937 to protect Waterpocket Fold.  Congress made it a National Park in 1970.  Scenic Byway U24 cuts through Waterpocket Fold on the Capitol Reef Scenic Byway alongside Fremont River inside the Fremont River Canyon.  The Burr Trail, unpaved inside the park, crosses the rugged fold on dirt switchbacks.  Partially-paved Notom-Bullfrog Road runs alongside Waterpocket Fold, forming a scenic loop with the Burr Trail across the dirt switchbacks and up the scenic trail, U12 over Boulder Mountain, and U24 through Fremont River Canyon.

Capitol Reef is the name of an especially rugged and spectacular segment of the Waterpocket Fold near the Fremont River, in the area where U24 crosses the Fold.  It is 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 area of Capitol Reef has been a homeland to people for thousands of years.  Archaic hunters and gatherers migrated through the canyons.  The Fremont Culture solidified around 500 AD.  Many years after the Fremont left, Paiutes moved into the area.