Cougar Ridge

Where is the “Reef” in Capitol Reef National Park?

Nov 14, 2023 | Capitol Reef National Park, Our Blog | 0 comments

Many first-time visitors to the park have the same question; why is it called Capitol Reef? As you’ll quickly notice, there’s no water in the park, and definitely no coral reefs. There aren’t any preserved fossils from coral reefs, either. The park is nowhere near the state’s capital, Salt Lake City. It’s not even close to Filmore, Utah, the state’s first territorial capital. And there isn’t a capitol building in site.

So where did the name come from? 

Before you start planning your visit to Cougar Ridge, the best resort Utah has to offer, keep reading to learn the answer to this common question.

Why is it Called Capitol Reef?

As it turns out, the latter theories listed above are the closest. The first part of the park’s name, “Capitol,” came from early settlers in the area. They thought that the region’s white domes resembled the white dome of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. If you’ve ever seen the Capitol Dome formation, which you’ll have a great view of from Hickman Bridge Trail, you’ll see the resemblance.

The second part of the name didn’t come about until visitors started making their way to the park. Before it was called Capitol Reef National Park, it was called “Wayne’s Wonderland.” This unique name has a simple explanation; Wayne is the county the park is partially located in. 

Visitors to Wayne’s Wonderland thought the Waterpocket Fold’s unique geology made it look like a coral reef. While the rising peaks of the Waterpocket Fold are a far cry from the lush coral of the Great Barrier Reef, the name stuck and helped inspire the new name for the park that would come in just a few short years.

Becoming Capitol Reef National Park

Wayne’s Wonderland was created in 1920. A pair of local businessmen, Ephraim P. Pectol and Joseph S. Hickman, sought to preserve the natural beauty of the area, and to promote it for tourism. They established the Wayne’s Wonderland in 1920, and the Wayne’s Wonderland Club in 1924. That later became the Associated Civics Club of Southern Utah, which continued the mission of preserving the natural beauty and ecosystems of the area.

Their efforts paid off. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Wayne’s Wonderland a national monument in 1937, the name was changed to Capitol Reef. It wouldn’t become Capitol Reef National Park until 1971 when President Richard Nixon signed the law to create this beautiful national park.

What About the Fruit Orchards?

Another common question that many first-time visitors to the best resort Utah has to offer is who planted the orchards? One of Capitol Reef National Park’s most unique features is the park’s fruit orchards. These orchards are located in the historic town of Fruita. Today, it’s no longer a town, as it’s located within the national park. But in the early 1900s, it was a small community.

In the late 1880s, Mormon pioneers began settling in the region, establishing farms and communities along the Fremont River. Fruita was one of a number of towns in what is now Capitol Reef and Torrey, Utah. It was never incorporated, though it lasted for more than six decades.

At its height, Fruita was home to around 10 families. They were largely self-sufficient, planting a number of crops, including the first fruit trees to populate the orchards. They picked the fruit in the orchards and hauled it to larger cities like Price and beyond.

When Capitol Reef National Monument was established in 1937, the town of Fruita was still in existence. However, the growing popularity of the park over the next two decades would eventually spell the end of the town. Roads were improved and eventually paved leading to Capitol Reef. The pavement was extended to Fruita in 1952. 

By the late 1960s, visitation to the park to the park had increased, and residence had decreased. The National Park Service decided to purchase the land to add it to the national monument. They began purchasing property from the owners, and many of the town’s buildings were destroyed.

In 1971, Capitol Reef National Park was established, and Fruita was no more. A few of the town’s structures, including the Gifford House, were saved, as were the fruit orchards. They were not only preserved but maintained

Planning a Stay in the Best Resort Utah Has to Offer

Now that you know where the park’s name and orchards came from, it’s time to start planning your own stay in the best resort Utah has to offer. From a corporate retreat in Utah to a fun vacation the whole family can enjoy together, there are plenty of ways to experience Cougar Ridge.

If you’re thinking about planning a corporate retreat in Utah, you can use your newfound knowledge to educate your guests about this unique destination. Click here to learn more about planning your next retreat.

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