Capitol Reef
Administrative History
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Mission 66 Road Improvements: 1956-1966

The dramatic changes and controversies that occurred at Capitol Reef National Monument as a result of Mission 66 have been discussed earlier in this administrative history. This section will therefore merely summarize the changes and focus on administrative details regarding rights-of-way, multi-agency agreements, and alignments. [47]

Funding And Fee Collection Issues: 1956 - 1958

The construction of a new road along the Fremont River involved multiple state and federal agencies, as well as private property owners. Because of the complexities involved, road construction east of Fruita, formally authorized in January 1958, was not started until the fall of 1961.

Once the decision was made to go ahead with the Fremont River route, the next step was determining which agency would fund which sections of the road. In January 1958, at a meeting of state, county, and National Park Service officials and Fruita land owners, the park service agreed to fund work along the Fremont River through Capitol Reef National Monument. The Utah State Road Commission would seek additional federal funds to complete the highway from the east boundary to Caineville, and would assume responsibility for the maintenance of the entire road through the monument. [48]

The other major issue involved the charging of National Park Service entrance fees on the new highway. In December 1956, the Utah Bureau of Public Roads District Engineer F. W. Smith wrote Superintendent Paul Franke that no fees should be charged on the new road. Smith reasoned that "a charge should not be made on a State highway for vehicles using the road since a large sum would be required to complete the improvement outside of the monument, and ...[since it had] been a State road since 1910." The State of Utah, he told Franke, wanted "a definite commitment of policy on this matter." [49]

Franke, in response, indicated that the National Park Service would not waive these fees. Pointing out that "the Utah parks needed 'stepping stones' not 'stumbling blocks'," Franke urged the state roads officials to reconsider their position. He reminded them:

You may recall that some thirty years ago there was a compromise reached on the construction of Federal roads in Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Regulations were issued providing for free passage only to local residents in pursuit of their usual occupation or business. This has never been satisfactory. State residents outside of the local area protest and claim it is discriminatory. Truckers have abused the privilege and greatly endanger the park visitor. Action is now being taken to repeal such exemption. [50]

Franke concluded, "At present there are no instrucions or regulations requiring the collection of fees at Capitol Reef. We assume we will be instructed to initiate fees at this area when the developments and facilities provided for park enjoyment by the Federal government warrant such charges." [51]

Regional Director Hugh M. Miller did not agree with Superintendent Franke. In an appeal to National Park Service Director Wirth, Miller stated his concern about charging fees on the new highway:

It would be unfortunate if this minor problem should loom so large as to jeopardize all past efforts to reach an agreement with the State. You are referred to our memorandum of May 18 which outlines our which we expressed our doubts that a fee should ever be collected for travel over the through road section. This would not preclude the charging of a fee at the entrance to the monument facilities proposed south the junctions of what would then be a monument road exclusively. [52]

Director Wirth agreed with Miller and issued the following memorandum on January 25, 1957:

The State Highway officials may be assured that the Service will never propose collection of fees on the Fremont Gorge section of the road so long as it remains a segment of a through highway and an alternate route not involving unreasonable additional mileage is not available for through traffic or local residents. This would not, of course, preclude the charging of fees at the entrance to the monument facilities proposed south of the proposed State route. [53]

Thus, the National Park Service agreed with the state that no fees would be charged on the new highway through the monument. The decision, however, was based on the fact that there was no nearby alternative route, rather than on the concept of traditional use or the fact that the citizens of Utah were funding the western portion of the highway to the monument. During the multi-party meeting in January 1958, this promise not to charge fees was formally accepted and written into the cooperative agreement governing operations for the new highway on May 16, 1961. [54]

Fremont River Road Construction: 1961 - 1962

In June 1959, the survey of the Fremont River road was complete, but construction was delayed until the right-of-way through privately owned lands in Fruita could be obtained. [55] Delays in the appraisals of the inholdings would postpone construction for an additional two years. These delays were coupled with pressures from local and state officials and politicians to begin road construction. Hence, the National Park Service was pushed to initiate condemnation proceedings on tracts owned by Dean Brimhall, Max Krueger, Cora Smith, and Elizabeth Sprang. Right-of-way through 40 acres east of Fruita owned by the Campbell brother's Wonderland Stages was also required. Final condemnation of lands needed for the highway's right-of-way through Fruita was granted on June 2, 1961. Within one month, a $570,000 National Park Service contract for 5.73 miles of new road within Capitol Reef National Park was awarded to low bidder Whiting and Haymond Construction Company of Springville, Utah. Construction of the new route for Utah 24 began in August 1961 (Fig. 48). [56]

Figure 48. Fruita inholdings and proposed highway route. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Despite the annual fall floods and other minor problems, road construction progressed through the rest of 1961. With construction more than half completed, work was suspended on Dec. 15 due to weather, to begin again the following February. On July 18, 1962, the Bureau of Public Roads accepted the new highway as satisfactorily complete. Capitol Reef Superintendent William T. Krueger estimated that the total cost of the road construction was $747,548.19, of which $677,548.19 were actual construction costs. Within one month, travel on the new highway had increased by more than 60 percent since the month before construction began. [57]

One reason for the increase in traffic on the new road was the larger number of visitors attracted by the new paved highway through the monument. Another reason was the fact that, once Utah 24 was paved all the way to Green River, this road became the shortest truck route between Los Angeles and Denver. Thus, prior to the late 1970s completion of Interstate 70 north of the park, semi-truck traffic through the heart of Capitol Reef was heavy. [58]

Perhaps the most noticeable resource alteration caused by the road's construction was near the current eastern boundary, where a cut was excavated to divert the Fremont River from its natural course. (In 1962, of course, the monument's eastern border along the Fremont River was west of this road cut, near the Behunin Cabin.) Rather than building the highway to follow the bend of an old riverbed meander, on property owned by Wonderland Stages, highway officials blasted directly through a soft sandstone cliff. Then, instead of building a bridge over the Fremont River and allowing the flow to continue along its natural course, they blasted out a new channel that cut off the meander and kept the river on the north side of the highway. The diversion takes the river on a new course over a small cliff, thereby creating a waterfall that has become a popular swimming hole for visitors and local youngsters. The old meander in wet seasons still holds water and provides habitat for a number of plant and animal species. Because this road cut and river re-channeling took place outside the monument, the National Park Service had no voice in the matter and apparently kept no records documenting this portion of Utah 24 construction. [59]

Scenic Drive

Once the new Utah Highway 24 was completed along the Fremont River, the old route through Capitol Gorge reverted to National Park Service control. As per the 1961 cooperative agreement and Capitol Reef's master plans, the road was closed off at the head of the Capitol Gorge narrows. The road from Capitol Gorge to Pleasant Creek remained open to vehicle traffic (Fig. 49). [60]

Figure 49. 1962 Master Plan, monument roads and trails. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

The increased traffic brought by the new highway led to a corresponding increase on the Scenic Drive as well. Approximately 40 percent of all visitors traveled at least part of this road, which was dirt south of Fruita. It was washboarded, rutted, and dusty most of the time, and the road turned to mud in the wet season. In July 1966, the National Park Service improved and graded Scenic Drive between Fruita and Capitol Gorge. Twelve new culverts helped solve the drainage problems. Superintendent Harry Linder considered the road to be "in excellent condition for visitor enjoyment with the exception of the dust which the summer rains should take care of." [61]

In 1969, Scenic Drive was scheduled to receive further attention, including chip-sealing the entire length from the campground to the mouth of Capitol Gorge. [62] However, the unexpected expansion of the national monument and all of its attendant worries evidently canceled that project, which would be revived in the spring of 1990.

Mission 66 Trails And Access Roads: 1956-1966

During 1955-56, various drafts of the Mission 66 Prospectus developed the initial philosophy toward new trails within the monument. A November 1955 draft stated:

As the area is difficult to access and due to the type of visitor, a large portion of the monument should always be reached by trails in preference to construction of roads. A note of caution, however, is necessary; we should not over-build on trails as they are very expensive to maintain in this country and changing patterns of use may mean too heavy a burden if trails buildings (sic) is overdone. [63]

This preference for trails over roads would become a predominant theme in Mission 66 development of the monument. The final, director-approved prospectus acknowledged that utility roads would have to be constructed to the new campground and possibly to Pleasant Creek. Nevertheless, trails would provide the primary access routes into the spectacular backcountry of the Waterpocket Fold. The prospectus continued:

Short trails to the natural bridges (sic) and some of the outlying canyons will be constructed to give safe access to hikers or horseback parties. These trails will be designed as to take visitors to vantage points. It is believed that at least one wilderness trail of low standard is justified to give access to the primitive area north of the Reef. This would enable those who wish to get into the true desert wilderness to do so with some effort. [64]

Trail mileage would significantly increase during the Mission 66 period from 1956 to 1966. In the 1956 estimates, only 8.6 miles of additional trails were planned. These included two miles added onto Broad Arch (Hickman Bridge) Trail, which would take visitors to Whiskey Spring and an overlook high above Fruita; 1.1 miles of trail into Cohab Canyon; and various walks and paths in the Fruita area. [65] Not listed were undeveloped trails along the bottom of Grand Wash and up to Cassidy Arch. [66]

By 1958, four miles of additional trails "to points of interest" were included in a revised development outline. [67] Then, in 1960, proposed total trail mileage in the monument was dramatically increased to 24.5 miles. This included seven miles of new construction and 17.5 miles of reconstruction or relocation. [68]

That same year, Superintendent Krueger raised the possibility that, since problems with purchasing the private inholdings needed for the new highway's right-of-way were delaying its construction, those funds could be shifted to trails and access roads. Krueger's first priority was the reconstruction and partial relocation of the Goosenecks Road, parking areas, and trail. Apparently, the road out to the goosenecks overlook had existed for some time, but there is no known documentation that gives an initial date for its construction.

As part of this same funding request in 1960, Krueger desired construction of the long-promised Whiskey Spring and rim overlook additions to the Hickman Bridge Trail, as well as rehabilitation of 1.9 miles of the Cohab Canyon Trail. Further trail work was also proposed for the previously unimproved routes to Cassidy Arch, Cohab Canyon spurs, through Pleasant Creek and up to the base of the Golden Throne. Unfortunately, no known record pinpoints exactly when these projects were initiated. [69]

The 1964 master plan drawings of established and proposed roads and trails show a total of 35.78 miles of trails within the monument. Which of these were improved trails, which were simply routes, and which trails were actually completed by 1964 is undetermined. [70]

Although trail construction records are sketchy, most trail building was apparently postponed until 1966. At that time, Superintendent Harry P. Linder reported, "The rehabilitation of the Cassidy Arch Trail was completed in July. This completes rehabilitation work on all but two trails which should be finished by end of summer. Everyone tells us the trails are in better shape than they have ever been." [71]

By October 1966, the Fremont River Trail was completed and work was begun on the Frying Pan Trail connecting Cohab Canyon with the Cassidy Arch Trail. [72]

By 1973, improved trails in the headquarters area of Capitol Reef National Park also included the three-mile Chimney Rock loop and a half-mile extension of the Fremont River Trail to the campground overlook. Unimproved routes included the narrows of Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge, along Pleasant Creek, out to Sunset Point off the Goosenecks access road, and through Spring Canyon to the north. Another traditional but unimproved route followed Sulphur Creek from the Chimney Rock parking area to the visitor center . [73]

Additional trails were built by Capitol Reef rangers during the late 1980s and early 1990s. These included an extension of the Rim Overlook Trail another two miles to Navajo Knobs, new trails to a high point above the Fremont River Gorge west of the visitor center, and a three-mile loop trail following parts of the old Grover wagon road (Fig. 50).

Figure 50. Capitol Reef trails, 1994. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Development of new roads and trails in Capitol Reef National Monument was hindered by rugged terrain and isolation. Yet, miles of road and trail work were completed in the equally rugged Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks from the 1930s through the 1960s, suggesting that isolation was the more important factor delaying construction at Capitol Reef.

When the long-promised highway was finally constructed, circulation patterns within the monument changed significantly. The new highway brought an increasing number of visitors. With additional money and staff, Capitol Reef slowly extended its trail system, thereby enticing visitors to spend more time in the canyons or hiking to scenic view points. Fortunately, planners for Mission 66 and later developments in Capitol Reef had anticipated increased visitation. As of 1994, the roads and trails in the headquarters area, except for the most popular routes up to Hickman Natural Bridge and in the narrows of Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge, remain relatively uncrowded.

Post-Park Roads And Trails

Roads And Trails In New Park Areas: 1971-1973

When Capitol Reef National Park was established in December 1971, its managers inherited 48.5 miles of county roads, 13 miles of former Bureau of Land Management roads, and approximately 32 miles of four-wheel drive roads. There were no additional trails aside from backcountry routes used by ranchers, their stock, or wilderness explorers. [74]

The county roads included 25.6 miles to the north of Utah 24 and 22.9 miles in the southern portion of the new park. These county-maintained roads included the Caineville Wash and Cathedral Valley roads built in the 1940s (the Upper Cathedral switchbacks were cut around 1949), and the Hartnet and Notom Roads. [75]

It is unclear which 13 miles were built with Bureau of Land Management funds. In the North District, according to rancher Garn Jeffery, the two rough access roads from his ranch (often called Baker Ranch) and the Oil Bench road down Rock Spring Bench were improved by the BLM during the mid-1940s. [76] Those who built the road from the river ford up the bentonite clay hills to the Hartnet road are not clearly identified. Ward Roylance claimed that this road was built by the BLM during the mid-1950s. [77] Rancher Guy Pace, on the other hand, recalls that Wayne County, with his help, built the road during the late 1940s and early 1950s. More research is needed to accurately determine the history of the roads in the outlying areas of the park. [78]

The four-wheel drive roads presumably included the 13 miles of jeep track following Halls Creek south of The Post, as well as several dead-end spur roads in the North and South Districts, used for mining and grazing access. The ranching access roads included the Lower South Desert Overlook (originally built into the South Desert in 1958 for oil exploration), Upper Cathedral Valley line shack and corral, Gypsum Sinkhole and Lower Cathedral Valley access roads in the north, and the Swap Canyon and Red Canyon roads in the south.

Mining access roads included a few small spur roads off the South Draw road from Pleasant Creek to Bowns Reservoir; the Rainy Day Mine road off the Burr Trail; a spur into North Coleman Canyon from a Sandy Ranch road accessing the Oak Creek dam and canal; four-wheel drive routes from Dixie National Forest into Oak Creek Canyon; the Terry Mines road near Bitter Creek Divide; the 1956 oil exploration road past Jailhouse Rock into Little Sand Flat; and a connecting road into the Upper South Desert built in 1959 by seismographers, presumably looking for oil. [79]

Congressional Testimony And Requirements

Immediately after President Lyndon Johnson's presidential proclamation in 1969 expanded Capitol Reef to over 250,000 acres, an immediate outcry of protest arose from the area's traditional multiple-use operators. [80] Since access to many areas of the Waterpocket Fold was limited to a few dirt roads, users feared that some roads might be closed. During the May 31, 1969 subcommittee hearings over the monument expansion, South Desert rancher and Wayne County Commissioner Guy Pace stated:

With the present trend to put all national parks into natural wilderness areas, additional restrictions are placed on use of the parks. Road development in the area stops, and frequently existing roads and trails are blocked within the boundaries of these areas, and recreational expansion stops. We have had the experience in the old Capitol Reef National Monument of having scenic roads in the monument blocked. Capitol Gorge and Grand Wash have been closed to vehicle travel. Only those who have the time and energy to hike considerable distance can now enjoy this part of the park. [81]

As Pace implied, there was particular concern that the monument's expansion would terminate future road development.

The National Park Service attempted to placate road development advocates while defending the agency's management philosophy. The inherent conflict between these two objectives is expressed in a 1971 draft environmental statement issued for in-service use by Southern Utah Group General Superintendent Karl Gilbert. According to Gilbert, Capitol Reef should attempt to limit visitation into the fragile backcountry while at the same time promoting road improvements. [82] The final environmental statement provided a few more specifics on how this incongruous need for both better roads and protected resources would be managed:

Additional park roads are not proposed; however, the upgrading of existing roads is proposed. Generally this will be of environmental benefit to the area. The present roads are low standard and have been rerouted here and there to meet erosion conditions. Drainage structures are nonexistent and crossings of washes have been relocated at the whim of the individual maintaining the road. Flash flooding is commonplace. Great care will be used in determining the final location of these roads and in designing the roads so as to minimize adverse environmental impacts. [83]

One reason for the delay in formulating a roads and trails policy was the agency's unfamiliarity with the outlying regions of the proposed park. This delay, coupled with local concerns over roads, convinced sponsors of both the Senate and House bills to include a clause requiring a detailed transportation study for the new park. In November 1971, the congressional conference committee, which ironed out the discrepancies between the Senate and House versions, recommended that the Department of the Interior have sole responsibility for this "comprehensive" study and that it be coordinated with the studies for other National Park Service areas in the same region. The conference report specified, "Because of its importance to the future of the communities involved, the report and the recommendations are required to be completed and transmitted to Congress within two years after the date of enactment." [84]

The Department of the Interior seemed to have no objections to this requirement, provided that adequate funding was available. [85] Thus, with no apparent opposition, the following wording was included in the final enabling legislation for Capitol Reef National Park signed into law by President Richard Nixon on Dec. 18, 1971:

The Secretary, in consultation with appropriate Federal departments and appropriate agencies of the State and its political subdivisions, shall conduct a study of proposed road alignments within and adjacent to the park. Such study shall consider what roads are appropriate and necessary for full utilization of the area for the purposes of this Act as well as to connect with roads of ingress and regress to the area. [86]

Similar wording was also included in the legislation creating Arches National Park and expanding Canyonlands National Park earlier in 1971. Notably, however, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area legislation was not passed until the following year and was therefore not formally involved in this particular road study.

Transportation study projections and analyses are often ignored in the political arena. By the 1970s, any road development in such a sensitive area as southern Utah was bound to lead to intense conflict that would be resolved either through compromise or court action. Thus, the only historical significance of such a transportation study would be contemporary listing of various options.

1973 Transportation Study

A professional services contract was issued to Environmental Associates of Salt Lake City, Utah to complete a joint transportation study for Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks and separate master plans for each. Unfortunately, no further documentation, such as a scope of work, has been found to indicate what the National Park Service wanted included in this study, how much money was authorized, or whether the project should be done in-house or under contract. Since the locations of Capitol Reef's records from the early 1970s are unknown, there is also no documentation of the park's and region's reactions to the joint transportation study when it was issued at the end of 1973. [87]

It is known that the recommendations concerning Capitol Reef National Park were never approved. Further, the 1973 master plan for Capitol Reef, prepared by the same consulting firm and including the same detailed transportation analysis, was rejected as unsatisfactory. [88]

In developing the joint transportation study and the separate master plans for each area, Environmental Associates evaluated existing and potential regional road systems and visitor services. In conjunction with the evaluations, the consultants also considered the various proposals submitted by the Utah State Department of Highways and various federal agencies, including the National Park Service. The purpose was to derive transportation management proposals that would enhance visitor experience, avoid congestion, maximize capitol investment, and minimize non-visitor traffic. The goal seems to have been to combine the various proposals into an acceptable compromise. [89]

The Utah State Department of Highways proposals were, naturally, the most far-reaching. Ever since the tourist potential of southern Utah was first realized in the early 1900s, state planners, often in cooperation with the National Park Service, had advocated building scenic highways through the rugged and beautiful terrain. By the 1970s, the state was pinning its hopes on a spectacular Lake Powell Parkway from Glen Canyon City through Canyonlands National Park and across Cataract Canyon to Moab. Other paved roads, some of which were of more immediate concern to Capitol Reef, would act as arteries to this highway through the heart of the Colorado Plateau. The new roads and upgrades proposed by the state included paving the Boulder-Bullfrog road and Utah Highway 12 over Boulder Mountain. The plan also called for rerouting and paving a road from Fremont Junction to Notom Road, which in turn would be paved all the way to Bullfrog Marina on Lake Powell. If any one of these roads was completed as planned, it would significantly change the volume and nature of visitation to Capitol Reef National Park. [90]

The consultants' recommendations, termed the "National Park Service Proposal," called for substantially less. According to the contractors, Capitol Reef managers should strive for the worthy but still contradictory goals of increased access and minimal visitor impact. Specifically, the joint transportation study recommended that the section of the Notom-Bullfrog road inside the park boundary be paved, that the Burr Trail be upgraded to an all-weather gravel road, and that the existing dirt road from Utah 24 north to Lower South Desert Overlook be widened and paved. [91]

In its 1973 master plan for Capitol Reef National Park, Environmental Associates recommended further road improvements. These included a new highway from Fremont Junction southeast to Hanksville, as an alternative to the Fremont Junction-Bullfrog paved road proposed by the state. Another was the possible paving of the entire Notom-Bullfrog Road and the Boulder-Bullfrog Road (except for the Burr Trail, which would be graveled). In the park's North District, a one-way, paved loop road should be constructed to follow the existing dirt roads from Utah 24, through Cathedral Valley, and then over the Hartnet. The plan also recommended that Scenic Drive be improved and paved, that additional trails be built in the Fruita area, and that the jeep track along Halls Creek be restricted to foot and horse traffic. [92]

Thus, only two years after Capitol Reef National Park was created, there was a wide range of ambitious proposals to improve the roads and trails in the newly expanded area. The plan proposed by Environmental Associates did achieve the goal of blending the various options into a compromise proposal. Yet, even if its recommendations were less than the state or counties desired, they were still too ambitious for the National Park Service -- especially since the park was so new, so little was known about its existing resources, and the political climate in southern Utah was so contentious.

Wilderness Constraints

In addition to the transportation study, Capitol Reef's enabling legislation required that a wilderness study of the new park be completed within three years. [93] Any extensive roadless wilderness within Capitol Reef would obviously restrict road construction or circulation changes proposed in the 1973 master plan and transportation studies. While the wilderness proposals took the transportation and master plans into consideration, there seems to have been no actual coordination between the National Park Service wilderness study and the privately contracted transportation and master plan.

In November 1974, after several preliminary proposals and public hearings, the National Park Service formally recommended that 179,815 acres of roadless wilderness be designated in Capitol Reef National Park. There were to be nine distinct wilderness units, each separated by a road or proposed utility corridor (Fig. 51). The recommendation specified:

No existing roads that are to remain or routes of proposed roads are included in the proposed wilderness. However, a number of old roads not needed for park use are included. There are also many vehicle tracks associated with mining or seismic exploration during the uranium boom of the 50s. While too numerous to show on maps, they also lie within the proposed wilderness. All of these are to be obliterated and the land restored to as natural an appearance as possible. [94]

Figure 51. Proposed Wilderness, 1974. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Two other proposed roads in the vicinity of Lower Muley Twist Canyon were also rejected, due to their tremendous cost and potential resource destruction. These roads, routes Q and V on the 1974 Proposed Wilderness Map, were initially recommended as part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area enabling legislation in 1974. They were summarily rejected in the Capitol Reef Wilderness Plan and were never seriously considered again. [95]

While a wilderness plan for Capitol Reef National Park has never been formally approved, it is the stated policy of the National Park Service to manage any proposed wilderness areas as if they were designated wilderness. Later additions in 1984 mean that management is now empowered to restrict road construction from the nine proposed wilderness areas that make up 90 percent of Capitol Reef National Park. [96]

Because of this policy, there have been only a few times when road machinery was used in the backcountry. In 1976, a bulldozer was illegally brought in to clear the Oak Creek stock driveway, and in 1986, Superintendent Robert Reynolds reluctantly allowed the reconstruction of two stock ponds in the South Desert area of the North District. [97] In reality, the wilderness recommendations have had more of an impact on roads and trails in Capitol Reef National Park than either the 1973 master plan or transportation study.

By the end of the 1970s, little road and trail building had occurred since the park's creation at the beginning of the decade. This was mostly because park-wide development plans were postponed until resource surveys were completed. [98] Meanwhile, the 1974 wilderness recommendations mandated that 75 percent of Capitol Reef National Park be managed as roadless wilderness. That stance prevented road-building and ensured gradual deterioration of many of the old grazing and mining jeep trails. By the early 1980s, however, preparation of the first general management plan for the park, right-of-way issues, and the growing Burr Trail controversy would push roads and trails management at Capitol Reef into a more active phase.

1982 General Management Plan Proposals

In October 1982, Capitol Reef National Park finally had a comprehensive, director-approved General Management Plan (GMP). [99] Because of their significance to park management, roads and trails were prominently featured in the 1982 GMP. Until a new general management plan is finished and approved sometime in 1998, the 1982 plan provides the operational guidelines by which Capitol Reef National Park manages its resources.

Overall, the 1982 plan instructed park managers to seek an active role in all future road developments. It stated:

It is not in the interest of the Park Service to finance improvements of the through-roads in the South and North districts during the lifetime of this plan. Should the county and/or state propose improvements in any of these roads, the Park Service will retain a voice in the design of these roads and in the regulation of traffic on them within the park to protect park lands, resources, and visitors. [100]

This statement meant that park managers would work with county and/or state road planners, but would retain the National Park Service's right to determine final road alignments, speed limits, vehicle size limitations, and permitted periods of use. [101]

The 1982 general management plan called for construction of one new road, the paving of another, and several new trails, all in anticipation of increased visitation. A total of five action or plan alternatives were considered during the planning process. What follows is a description of roads and trails existing in 1982, and a summary of the desired changes expressed in the general management plan. (See that document for a complete table of alternatives).

A. Headquarters District

Current Conditions. Utah 24 was still the only paved road through the park. Along this road there were 11 scenic pullouts, including the graveled Goosenecks/Panorama Point spur road constructed and maintained by the National Park Service. Scenic Drive was a paved, two-lane road to the campground, with a one-lane bridge over the Fremont River. South of the campground, the road became a two-lane gravel road to Capitol Gorge, where it then reverted to a graded dirt road. The road to Pleasant Creek was a narrow, graded dirt road. There was also the one-mile dirt spur road into Grand Wash, plus seven scenic pullouts. The entire Scenic Drive was owned and maintained by the National Park Service. [102] The South Draw jeep track that runs south of Pleasant Creek and continues on to Lower Bowns Reservoir in Dixie National Forest is not mentioned in the GMP.

There were approximately 16 miles of constructed or marked trails in the Headquarters District. These included maintained trails to Hickman Bridge, Chimney Rock, Goosenecks, Cassidy Arch, along the Fremont River, and up to the base of the Golden Throne. Other routes, such as those along the bottom of Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge, were unmaintained routes. Some, such as like the Frying Pan Trail, were marked by rock cairns. [103]

Preferred changes to Headquarters District. The only proposed change was to widen and pave spur road out to the Goosenecks Overlook at a cost of $228,000. Alternative 3 had also proposed spending almost $6 million to pave the Scenic Drive as far as Pleasant Creek, but the preferred alternative would keep the Scenic Drive gravel. [104]

The only new trail proposed was a two-mile loop through the historic Fruita area, connecting the campground with the picnic area, orchards, schoolhouse, Hickman Bridge trailhead, and visitor center. It was also proposed that trailhead parking be added at Pleasant Creek to encourage use of the canyon route, as well as more backcountry use in general by backpackers and equestrians.

B. South District

Existing Conditions. The only South District roads mentioned in the GMP are the Notom and Burr Trail roads, which intersect near The Post, and an unmaintained four-wheel drive road up Upper Muley Twist Canyon to the Strike Valley viewpoint trailhead. The Burr Trail and lower section of the Notom Road were maintained by Garfield County; the portion of the Notom Road north of the county line was maintained by Wayne County. Other known roads, such as the Halls Creek jeep road and the Rainy Day, Terry, and North Coleman Canyon mine access roads were not mentioned, most likely because they were considered permanently closed. All trails in the south district were unmaintained, backcountry routes. [105]

Preferred Changes. No major alterations were seen for the Notom Road. It was proposed that small, five-car parking areas be added at Burro, Cottonwood, and Five-Mile washes and Sheets Gulch. While it was assumed that some change would occur to the Burr Trail, no specific alternatives were considered in the GMP. According to the general management plan, the anticipated increase in visitation resulting from the road's improvement might necessitate construction of a permanent contact station, employee housing, and a primitive, expandable campground at the foot of the Burr Trail switchbacks. [106]

The only new road proposed anywhere in the park would change the access to Strike Valley Overlook. The plan recommended that the old road through Upper Muley Twist be turned into a foot trail, and that a new, 2.5-mile gravel road be constructed from a point further west on the Burr Trail to a 15-car parking area at the Strike Valley trailhead. Gravel would also be applied to the rough, often impassable road over Bureau of Land Management land out to the Brimhall Bridge/Halls Creek Overlook Trail. New trails in the South District would be built at Bitter Creek Divide, with a spur trail to the Oyster Shell Reef. [107]

It should be emphasized that all these improvements were contingent on road improvements and the corresponding increase in visitation. Until the roads were upgraded, the NPS preferred that little change occur in the South District of Capitol Reef.

C. North District

Existing Conditions. The two main access roads into the North District were the Caineville Wash and Hartnet roads. Both were graded dirt, maintained by Wayne County. Like the roads in the South District, they were considered impassable when wet, but the North District roads were much rougher and passable only to high clearance two-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles. Short spur roads led from the Hartnet road to Lower South Desert Overlook, the Upper South Desert Viewpoint, and the Cathedral Valley Viewpoint. Spurs off Caineville Wash Road led to lower Cathedral Valley and the Temples of the Sun and Moon. It is assumed that these roads were also maintained by the county. The access roads up to Fremont Junction to the north or over Thousand Lake Mountain to the west are also mentioned. [108] By 1982, the former roads into the South Desert were closed and off-road vehicle use was prohibited.

Preferred Changes. Unlike the 1973 master plan proposals, no new development or road improvements were sought for the North District. Visitor access would be limited to the existing roads and hiking routes from Lower South Desert Overlook to Jailhouse Rock, from the Hartnet Road out to Middle Desert Viewpoint and the Lower Cathedral Valley Overlook. An additional trail was planned around the Wall of Jericho in Upper Cathedral Valley.

1994 Conditions

The 1982 Capitol Reef General Management Plan called for few significant changes in terms of roads or trails. The new Strike Valley access was the only new road planned, and only the short Goosenecks access was recommended to be paved. New trails would be limited to increasing the marked backcountry routes and creating a new, two-mile loop trail through Fruita.

Since 1982, little has changed in the still-isolated backcountry areas of Capitol Reef National Park. There are a few widened trailhead parking areas and improved trail markings in Upper and Lower Muley Twist Canyons in the South District. There is also a new dirt access road into the Oak Creek trailhead, necessitated by complaints from Sandy Ranch that the old access road crossed its property. [109]

In the north, a new trail was constructed by former Backcountry Ranger Larry Vensel out to the Wall of Jericho in Cathedral Valley. There are have been no other significant changes to the North District's roads or trails.

While Scenic Drive was paved in 1987 as far as Capitol Gorge, the Goosenecks Road is still gravel. New trails to Navajo Knobs and the wagon road loop and better access to Spring Canyon have increased trail variety in the headquarters area. Rangers have also marked a new trail from the highway across from the visitor center going up behind the "castle" formation. Surprisingly, after a steady increase during the early 1980s, backcountry use in the park has remained relatively stable during the 1990s.

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Last Updated: 10-Dec-2002