Capitol Reef National Park

One’s first impression of Capitol Reef is formed by a majestic procession of immense sandstone formations lining the entry road that leads to the park’s Visitor Center. These formations are especially beautiful in late afternoon light, and if an oncoming rain shower creates a rainbow one’s life is complete. Two well-placed overlooks branch off the entry road, leading to the Panorama overlook and the Goosenecks overlook.

The Entry Road to Capitol Reef

At the Visitor Center, the road splits. One road branches to the right and offers access to two features: Capitol Gorge and the Ten-mile Scenic Drive. The Scenic Drive is paved, with strategically-placed overlooks to allow photographers access to major formations.

Ten-Mile Scenic Drive

The second attraction accessed from the Visitor Center is Capitol Gorge, a deep canyon that was obviously formed by cataracts of water carving through the high sandstone cliffs. It is not a place you want to be when rainstorms are about, because it is at high risk of flash floods.

Capitol Gorge

From the Visitor Center, the Caineville Road branches to the left and heads East. Fourteen miles down the road one comes to the River Ford, where high-clearance vehicles cross a shallow stream to gain access to the 65-mile network of dirt roads that traverse  the Lower  and Upper South Desert, and then the Upper and Lower Cathedral Valleys.
The Bentonite Hills are huge mounds of white and salmon-colored minerals which are quite beautiful in soft morning sun. The South Desert is viewed from the  two high vantage points called the Lower South Desert overlook and the Upper South Desert overlook. Parenthetically, the photographer had to navigate some precarious formations to get to the best site to take the pictures.

The River Ford,  The Bentonite Hills and Lower and Upper South Desert

The Upper and lower Cathedral Valleys are enormous. They act as picture frames for two sets of sandstone spires. There are two overlooks for the massive formations in the Upper Cathedral Valley, While the Lower Cathedral Valley hosts two free-standing formations known as the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon.

Upper Cathedral Valley

After one passes the Upper Valley formations, a very long dirt road takes one to the center of the vast valley.  As we drive toward the Lower Cathedral Valley we take a brief side trip to the Gypsum Sinkhole, a 200-foot deep  hole left by powdered gypsum being washed away over time.

The Central Road in Upper Cathedral Valley and The Gypsum Sinkhole

After we leave the monoliths at the entrance to Upper Cathedral Valley, we follow a long dirt road out across the valley. Since there are rarely any other visitors to this vast valley, the photographs take in the sweep of nature with no sign of human activity. It is like being in a time warp, the American Southwest as it has been for centuries.

Toward the eastern end of the valley, a side road takes us to the Gypsum Sinkhole. Gypsum is very fine-grained, so the wind can blow it away and water can dissolve it and leave a hole such as this—forty feet wide and more than two hundred feet deep!

The Lower Cathedral Valley, The Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon and The Glass Mountain

As we reach the eastern end of the Upper Cathedral Valley we come to another valley known as Lower Cathedral Valley. In this quiet Paradise two immense monoliths soar from the desert—the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon. Nearby is an outcrop of volcanic glass. This formation is known as The Glass Mountain.

After we leave the Lower Cathedral Valley, we exit the park by passing through the Caineville Badlands, where mountains of colored minerals several miles long stretch out along the side of the Road.

Carl Roessler
P.O. Box 33668
Las Vegas, NV 89133
voice: 702.562.0226
fax: 702.562.0227

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