Cougar Ridge

A Brief History of Fruita, Utah

Nov 21, 2023 | Activities & Adventure, Capitol Reef National Park, Surrounding Area | 0 comments

One of the most popular things to do during a stay in ridge resorts is to visit Fruita. While it’s no longer a town—and in fact never officially was—this unique section of Capitol Reef National Park has a rich history and some unique activities you won’t find anywhere else in the park.

If you want to take a step back in time, you’ll want to set aside time to visit the Fruita section of Capitol Reef during your stay at Cougar Ridge. Keep reading to learn more about the area’s unique history.

European Settlers Arrive

While Native Americans have lived in Southern Utah for tens of thousands of years, it took much longer for the first Europeans to arrive in this somewhat isolated region. 

Explorers first passed through what is now Capitol Reef in 1872, and a few years later, Latter Day Saints settlers moved into the high plateaus. They began farming on the high plateaus located to the west of modern-day Capitol Reef. Then, a short time later, they turned their sights on the more fertile area around the Fremont River.

Fruita is Born

It’s believed that the first settler in what would become Fruita arrived in 1879. He was a squatter by the name of Franklin Young. The first actual landholder was Nels Johnson.

Eventually, a few other farmers and families would follow. They relied on the waters of the Fremont River to irrigate their crops in the otherwise harsh landscape. The settlement was first called Junction, though it would be renamed Fruita in 1902.

A Difficult Life and the Importance of Community

Fruita was never incorporated, and it never grew to larger than ten families. Life was tough in this isolated area. The farming families planted the now-famous orchards of Fruita, and grew sorghum, vegetables, and alfalfa. Fruit from the orchards was picked and hauled by wagon to larger towns, a journey that could take many hours in the best of weather, and was impossible in the worst. Money was in scarce supply in the settlement, and residents often traded with one another for anything they needed.

Some Fruita men also went to work on state roads to help supplement the farm’s meager income. A one-room schoolhouse was built by Fruita residents in 1896, and also served as a community center. The desks could be moved from the center of the room, and socials and dances were held there, as well as church services.

Mail traveling to the early Junction settlement was delivered to a mail tree, known as the Fremont Cottonwood tree. This tree still exists today, and provides shade over a popular picnic spot in Capitol Reef.

Connecting Fruita to the Outside World

In 1884, residents of Fruita built a primitive road through Capitol Gorge. This roadway was called the Blue Dugway. It helped connect residents living along the Fremont River with the rest of Utah. This was the only connection to these communities until after World War II. 

Even as life in the rest of Utah entered the modern era, things stayed largely the same in Fruita. The first tractor didn’t make its way to Fruita until after World War II. The town was largely spared the effects of the Great Depression, in part because the residents were already largely self-sufficient and accustomed to bartering and trading for what they needed.

The Creation of Capitol Reef and the End of Fruita

While residents likely wouldn’t have known it at the time, the creation of Capitol Reef spelled the end of Fruita. Capitol Reef National Monument was created in 1937. Following the end of World War II, more and more visitors made their way to the park. Pavement on the area roads arrived in Torrey in 1940, and Fruita in 1952. This thrust the community into the spotlight. The National Park Service began looking to purchase private landholdings in Fruita to expand the park. By the late 1960s, almost all of the land in the town had been purchased. Most structures and buildings were torn down, though a few were saved. In 1971, Capitol Reef National Park was established, and the area that was once Fruita became a part of the park.

Visiting Fruita During a Stay in Ridge Resorts

Fruita is a popular part of Capitol Reef today. During your stay in ridge resorts, you can see the surviving structures of the town, including the Gifford house and barn. One of the most popular activities is visiting the Fruita orchards. Depending on the season, you can see the orchards in bloom or even pick fruit to pick and take home with you.

Ready to start planning your own visit to Fruita and Cougar Ridge? Now is a great time to book your stay in the best resort Utah has to offer!

Right now, when you book a stay of two or more nights, you’ll receive a 40 percent discount on your stay. This deal is only available until February 29, so book your stay today!

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