Capitol Reef is formed by a waterpocket fold in the earth, and presented an obstacle to the early pioneers who likened it to the barrier a reef presents in the ocean. Apparently one section looked like the Capitol Building in Washington, thus its name. The park is fairly narrow as is the reef, but runs a long way north and south. Five gorges cut through from east to west. The campground and visitor's center are in an oasis along the Fremont River called Fruita. Mormon pioneers homesteaded and farmed there, planting fruit and nut orchards which are still maintained. Many pioneer buildings are preserved there too.
We decided to hike Capitol Gorge, which was actually the original route of Highway 24. It is just a wide dry wash most of the time, but is subject to big flash floods which strew boulders along the wash and had to cleared out by hand in the pioneer days. Now it is a great hike, passing ancient petroglyphs and a pioneer rock register where early (and unfortunately later as well) travelers carved their names. Further on is a steep rock climb to some natural water-pockets called the "Tanks." We were never sure we did find them, but it was a heck of a hike!