The Waterpocket Fold defines Capitol Reef National Park. A nearly 100-mile long warp in the Earth's crust, the Waterpocket Fold is a classic monocline: a regional fold with one very steep side in an area of otherwise nearly horizontal layers. The varied topography, geology, elevations, and precipitation patterns along the Waterpocket Fold have resulted in a diversity of microhabitats and niches for plant species to inhabit. Seventeen geologic formations are exposed within the Waterpocket Fold, each with unique combinations of minerals, soil types, aspect and slope. In addition to the diverse geology, elevations in the park range from less than 4,000 feet (1,219 m) in the south near Hall's Creek to over 11,000 feet (3,353 m) in the north near Thousand Lakes Mountain. This elevation gradient results in increasing annual precipitation from the south to the north end of the park. The combination of wide ranging elevations and precipitation, coupled with the diverse geology and topography, allows 85 vegetation associations to exist in the park. A total of 887 plant species occur in the park many of which have very restricted distributions, occuring on specific geologic formations, soils, slopes, or elevation or precipitation ranges. Capitol Reef National Park has more than 40 rare and endemic plant species, six of which are federally listed as threatened or endangered.
More information on vegetation mapping at Capitol Reef can be found here.
Did You Know?
Desert bighorn sheep, once common in the Capitol Reef area, were reintroduced in 1996 and 1997, and have since thrived here. Visitors have reported seeing them in Capitol Gorge, Grand Wash, and along the Fremont River corridor.