Wonderland" in the 1920s by local boosters
Ephraim P. Pectol and Joseph S. Hickman, Capitol
Reef National Park comprises 378 square miles
of colorful canyons, ridges, buttes, and monoliths.
About 75 miles of the long up-thrust called
the "Waterpocket Fold", extending
like a rugged spine from Thousand Lake Plateau
southward to Lake Powell, is preserved within
the park boundary. "Capitol Reef"
is the name of an especially rugged and spectacular
park of the Waterpocket Fold near the Fremont
Only a few decades ago, Capitol Reef and the
Waterpocket Fold country comprised one of the
remote corners of the "lower 48".
Easy road access came only with the construction
of a paved Utah Hwy 24 through the Fremont River
Canyon in 1962.
The earliest traces of human activity
date from the 9th century when Indian peoples
occupied the flood plains and high ground near
the few perennial watercourses. These people
- called the Fremont Culture by archeologists
- were contemporaries of the pueblo-building
Anasazi of the Four Corners area but were less
advanced. In the 13th century, all Indian cultures
in this area underwent sudden change; the Fremont
Indian settlements and fields were abandoned.
No one is sure what happened to these Fremont
Not for several centuries did
significant human activity reappear. When the
first white explorers traveled in the vicinity
of the Waterpocket Fold, both Utes and Southern
Paiute nomads were encountered.
Despite the fact that numerous
expeditions passed near Capitol Reef, none of
them explored the Waterpocket Fold to any great
extent. It was, as now, incredibly rugged and
Following the Civil War, Mormon
church officials at Salt Lake City sought to
establish "missions" in the remotest
niches of the intermountain west. In 1866, a
quasi-military expedition or Mormons in pursuit
of marauding Indians penetrated the high valleys
to the west. In the 1870s, settlers moved into
these valleys, eventually establishing Loa,
Fremont, Lyman, Bicknell, and Torrey. Meanwhile,
men from the expeditions of Major John Wesley
Powell had begun to explore the area.
In the early 1880s, settlers moved
into Capitol Reef country. Tiny communities
sprung up along the life-sustaining Fremont
River; Junction (later "Fruita"),
Caineville and Aldridge were created. Fruita
prospered, Caineville barely survived, Aldridge
By 1920, the work was hard but
the life in Fruita was good. No more than ten
families at one time were sustained by the fertile
flood plain of the Fremont River and the land
changed ownership over the years. The area remaind
THE "FATHER OF CAPITOL
REEF NATIONAL MONUMENT"
Ephraim Porter Pectol was born in 1875. As a
child he lived in Caineville, another abortive
Mormon settlement 20 miles east ot Capitol Reef.
In 1910, he went into business in Torrey and
operated a store there for many years. He served
as Mormon Bishop of Torrey from 1911 until 1928.
Pectol was sensitive to the rugged
beauty of the Capitol Reef area and was an avid
Fremont culture relic hunter. A private museum
in his Torrey store was widely known.
Pectol was anxious that the "outside
world" should come to appreciate the beauty
of the area. In 1921, he organized a "Boosters
Club" in Torrey. Pectol pressed a promotional
campaign, furnishing stories and photos to periodicals
and newspapers. In his efforts, he was increasingly
aided by his brother-in-law, Joseph S. Hickman,
who was Wayne County High School principal.
In 1924, Hickman extended community
involvement in the promotional effort by organizing
a Wayne County-wide "Wayne Wonderland Club".
In 1924, the educator was elected to the Utah
Pectol was elected to the presidency
of the "Associated Civics Club of Southern
Utah", successor to the Wayne Wonderland
Club. The club raised $150.00 to interest a
Salt Lake City photographer in taking a series
of promotional photos. For several years, the
photographer - J.E. Broaddus - traveled and
lectured on "Wayne Wonderland".
In 1933, Pectol himself was elected
to the legislature and almost immediately contacted
President Roosevelt and asked for the creation
of "Wayne Wonderland National Monument"
out of the federal lands comprising the bulk
of the Capitol Reef area. Federal agencies began
a feasibility study and boundary assessment.
Meanwhile, Pectol not only guided the government
investigators on numerous trips, but escorted
an increasing number of visitors. The lectures
of Broaddus were having an effect.
On August 2, 1937, President Roosevelt
signed a proclamation creating Capitol Reef
CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL MONUMENT
In Proclamation 2246, President Roosevelt set
aside 37,711 acres of the Capitol Reef area.
This comprised an area extending about two miles
north of present Utah Hwy 24 and about 10 miles
south, just past Capitol Gorge. More highly
protective federal regulations now applied in
These Depression years were lean
ones for the National Park Service (NPS), the
new administering agency. Funds for the administration
of Capitol Reef were nonexistent; it would be
a long time before the first rangers would arrive.
CAPITOL REEF GETS A WATCHMAN
Charles Kelley was a man of diverse interests
and great talent. Born in 1889, "Charlie"
made his living as a linotype operator and printer.
As he matured, a talent for writing, as well
as printing, emerged.
Moving to Salt Lake City in 1919,
Kelly began a love affair with the deserts and
canyons of Utah that would last a lifetime.
He concentrated his exploration energies on
southern Utah and the Colorado River area. His
interest in arch-ecology, as well as more recent
He published his first book in
1930 - Salt Desert Trails. Five more books followed,
the most well-known being Outlaw Trail, the
story of Butch Cassidy. Scores of his articles
were published by Deseret Magazine, The Utah
Historical Quarterly, and The Saturday Evening
Kelly developed an intense interest
in Fremont and Anasazi rockart. On several of
his trips, he passed through Fruita and came
to know a colorful resident, Dr. Arthur L. Inglesby,
a dentist retired from practice. "Doc"
Inglesby was an avid rockhound who had come
to know Capitol Reef intimately.
Inglesby and Kelly became friends
and made numerous trips into the rugged butte
and canyon country around Fruita. Kelly decided
that he, too, would retire in Fruita.
Meanwhile, not much was happening
with the administration of Capitol Reef National
Monument, which had been placed under the control
of Zion National Park. However, a stone ranger
cabin and the Sulphur Creek bridge were built
and some road work was performed by the CCC
(Civilian Conservation Corps) and the WPA (Works
Project Administration). Kelly came to know
NPS officials at Zion well and volunteered to
"watchdog" the park for the NPS. In
1943, he was officially appointed "custodian-without-pay".
THE KELLY YEARS
Charles Kelly's retirement had been short. He
was to work without pay as a volunteer until
1950 when the NPS offered him a civil service
appointment as the first superintendent. At
age 62, he got his first federal job at an age
when most career NPS people have already retired.
Life was challenging for Kelly;
he continued to write - mostly about Capitol
Reef. During the 1950s, he was deeply troubled
by NPS management acceding to demands of the
Atomic Energy Commission that Capitol Reef National
Monument be opened to uranium prospecting. He
felt that the decision had been a mistake and
destructive of the long term national interest.
As it turned out, there was not enough ore to
be worth mining in the monument.
It was not until 1958 that Kelly
got additional permanent help in protecting
the monument and enforcing regulations; Park
Ranger Grant Clark transferred from Zion. The
year Clark arrived, fifty-six thousand visitors
came to the park and "Charlie" Kelly
retired for the last time, full of years and
During the 1960s (under the program name "Mission
66"), NPS areas nationwide received new
facilities to meet the demand of mushrooming
park visitation . At Capitol Reef, a 53-site
campground at Fruita, staff rental housing,
and a new visitor center were built, the latter
opening in 1966.
Visitation climbed dramatically
after the paved, all-weather road was built
through the Fremont River canyon near Fruita
and the old Capitol Gorge road closed. In 1967,
146,598 persons visited the park. The staff
was also growing.
During the 1960s, the NPS proceeded
to purchase private land parcels at Fruita and
Pleasant Creek. Almost all private property
passed into public ownership on a "willing
buyer-willing seller" basis.
convinced President Johnson to set aside an
enormous area of public lands in 1968, just
before he left office. In Presidential Proclamation
3888, an additional 215,056 acres were placed
under NPS control. By 1970, Capitol Reef National
Monument comprised 254,251 acres and sprawled
southeast from Thousand Lake Mountain almost
to the Colorado River. The action was very controversial
locally, and NPS staffing at the monument was
inadequate to properly manage the additional
THE PARK CREATED BY CONGRESS
The vast enlargement of the monument and diversification
of the scenic resources soon raised another
issue: Whether or not Capitol Reef should be
a national park, rather than a monument. Two
bills were introduced into Congress.
A House bill (H.R. 17152) introduced
by Utah Congressman Laurence J. Burton, called
for an 180 thousand acre national park and an
adjunct 48 thousand acre national recreation
area where "multiple use" (including
grazing) could continue indefinitely.
In the Senate, meanwhile, Senate
bill S. 531 had already passed on July 1, 1970
as provided for a 230 thousand acre national
park alone. The bill called for a 25 year phase-out
In September 1970, Department
of interior officials told a house subcommittee
session that they preferred that about 254 thousand
acres be set aside as a national park. Also,
they recommened that the grazing phase-out period
be 10 years, rather than 25. They did not favor
the adjunct recreation area concept.
It was not until late 1971 that
Congressional action was completed. By then,
the 92nd Congress was in session and S. 531
had languished. A new bill, S. 29, was introduced
in the Senate by Senator Frank M. Moss of Utah
and was essentially the same as the defunct
S. 531 except that it called for an additional
10,834 acres of public lands for a Capitol Reef
National Park. In the House, Utah Representative
Gunn McKay (with Representative Lloyd) had introduced
H.R. 9053 to replace the dead H.R. 17152. This
time around, the House bill dropped the concept
of an adjunct Capitol Reef National Recreation
Area and adoped the Senate concept of a 25 year
limit on continued grazing.
The Deparment of Interior was
still recommending a national park of 254,368
acres and a 10 year limit for grazing phase-out.
S. 29 passed the Senate in June
and was sent to the House. The House subsequently
dropped its own bill and passed the Senate version
with an amendment. Since the Senate was not
in agreement with the House amendment, differences
were worked out in Conference Committee. The
Conference Committee issued their agreeing report
on November 30, 1971.
The legislation - "An Act
to Establish The Capitol Reef National park
in the State of Utah" - became Public Law
92-207 when it was signed by President Nixon
on December 18, 1971.