Capitol Reef
Cultural Landscape Report
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Recommendations for treatment of the cultural landscape of Fruita are based on an analysis and evaluation of character-defining features that contribute to the historic district. The purpose of the recommendations is to clarify preservation treatment for significant landscape resources and to provide a framework for new development that is compatible. with the salient qualities and character of the cultural landscape as defined in this report. Because these recommendations are being developed concurrent with the development of a new General Management Plan/Development Concept Plan/Interpretive Plan (GMP) for the park, the following recommendations address contemporary management and programmatic issues only as they potentially impact the cultural landscape. Specific design alternatives for Fruita will be developed as part of the GMP. Recommendations are grouped into five categories:

Management Concepts
Small-scale Features

Because Fruita is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, preservation of character-defining landscape resources is the recommended management philosophy for the district as a whole. National Register listing does not preclude new development within the district. Rehabilitation of specific areas to accommodate park needs is viable within the guidelines established by the Secretary of the Interior Standards. In order to support future park planning efforts, additional attention is given in the recommendations to the identification of areas and features within the cultural landscape where change or alteration can be accommodated without loss of integrity.

Finally it is important to note that these recommendations were undertaken to provide a broad framework for management. It is beyond the scope of these recommendations to propose specific designs for the district, provide construction details, or address specific maintenance requirements or practices.


1. All landscape patterns, relationships, and features contributing to the significance of the Fruita Rural Historic District as defined in this report and the National Register nomination should be preserved.

2. The rural character of Fruita, dominated by the pattern of orchards, fields, narrow roads, and ditch irrigation, should be retained. Based on research and an analysis of historic land use practices, approximately 65 acres of the 200-acre district should remain in agricultural use. Of this 65 acres, approximately 60 percent (40 acres) should be maintained in orchard and 40 percent (approximately 25 acres) in open land, as fields or pasture (see Recommendations: Vegetation).

3. Management of the cultural landscape must include responsible treatment of natural features and resources including the toe slopes, cliffs, riparian communities and other native vegetation, soils, and water courses. In addition, both natural and cultural resource specialists should be involved in the management of orchards, fields, pastures, and irrigation ditches throughout the district.

4. The campgrounds (loops A, B and C) are intrusive elements in the district and should be screened or, if possible, removed. If the campgrounds are retained the following guidelines for treatment apply:

a) The loop C campground should be redeveloped in a manner that is more compatible with loop A and B (as a single loop, oriented generally east-west), or reconfigured to enhance the demarcation and definition of individual sites. The loop road should follow the along the edges of the field, linking the camp sites and allowing the open (agricultural) character of the field to remain. Views from the road to and from these sites should be screened with vegetation.

b) If possible, camp sites located in loops A and B that are currently in the flood plain should be removed.

c) The grouping of individual camp sites, with small (five car) concentrated parking areas, should be designed in a manner that provides adequate screening and maintains the open character of the field (e.g., group area and spaces 40-45, loop B).

d) Paving materials, utilities, lights, trash cans and other small-scale features in the campgrounds should be visually compatible with the other features throughout the district (see Recommendations: Small-scale Features).

5. Additional housing units required for park staff should not be located in the historic district. If, however, the decision is made to site new housing in the district the following guidelines apply:

a. All new housing units should be sited within the existing residential development across from the visitor center (see Site Map). The boundaries for the development are defined on the west by residences #Q-10 and #Q-12, and follow the existing access road to residence #Q-19 on the east, then south to the two residential units built in 1994-1995, #Q-81 and #Q-83.

b. All new structures should be compatible in scale, color, massing, and style to existing structures.

c. New structures should be screened with vegetation in order to mitigate the impact of contemporary development. Plant materials used for screening should be native, or selected from an approved list.

d. Rehabilitation and continued use of the Brimhall, Sprang, and Holt houses is encouraged (see Structures, below).

6. Existing park housing that is in the flood plain should be removed.

7. The historical connection between Fruita and the surrounding communities should be encouraged through public participation and use of the landscape for special events such as harvest homecoming and family reunions.

8. All above-ground utilities such as power lines and transformers are visually intrusive and should be placed underground.

9. Key viewsheds within the district and views identified as significant to the district from outside the boundaries should be preserved. These views include both pedestrian and vehicular-oriented vantage points. Key views include, but are not limited to, the following:

a) Views to the interior portions of the district from State Highway 24 and the Scenic Drive.

b) Views from primary trails on the mesas and ridges surrounding and defining the district such as the Cohab Canyon Trail, the Johnson Mesa Trail, and the Hickman Bridge Trail. Several vantage points along these trails provide historic views to the district.

c) Unobstructed views from the district to the mesas, canyon walls, and ridges defining the district.

10. Consideration should be given to enhancing the interpretive program related to the historic landscape throughout the district. Additional themes might include interpretation of the agricultural landscape of Fruita in a regional historic context, the relationship between natural systems and development of the cultural landscape, the role of the Fremont River and Sulphur Creek in the construction of an irrigation system, and historic settlement (as reflected in the Holt and Gifford farms).



1. State Highway 24 should remain the primary vehicular access road to the district, providing access to visitor services and administrative facilities. Currently this road cuts through the northern edge of the district, physically and perceptually separating it from the southern portion. Consideration should be given to mitigating the impact of this road by reducing the speed of traffic through the district to 30 MPH, from a point on the hill immediately west of the visitor center, to the Hickman Bridge Trail head, east of the district boundary. The 30 MPH speed is comparable to that of other small communities to the west, and would strengthen the connection between the north edge of the district and the south.

2. The Scenic Drive should remain as a limited access road through the district, from the visitor center to Capitol Gorge.

3. The Scenic Drive is a contributing feature to the historic district and should be preserved. Major modifications to the road, such as realignment or widening to accommodate larger vehicles or higher speeds, is not recommended. In some areas, however, rehabilitation of the road to meet basic safety standards, provide interpretive pull-outs, or allow for bicycle traffic may be considered. Areas where these rehabilitations are appropriate include:

a. The area on the south side of the road, just west of the Abie Clarke Orchard.

b. The area next to the Nels Johnson Orchard.

c. The pull-off next to the Merin Smith Implement Shed.

d. The Gifford Farm entry drive.

e. The area adjacent to (north of) the Gifford Barn, next to the pasture access. This point can also tie into access to the Cohab Canyon Trail head.

f. The area on the west side of the road, adjacent to (east of) campground loop C.

g. The existing pull-off next to the Cal Pendleton Field on the south end of the district.

4. The lane on the west edge of the Nels Johnson Orchard is a remnant of the historic road linking the north and south portions of Fruita, and should be retained. Consideration should be given to incorporating this lane in an interpretive walk.

5. Parking areas throughout the district should be kept small in scale and informal in character. Paving materials should be selected to blend with the surrounding landscape.

6. Existing parking areas at the picnic grounds and group camping area should be screened with vegetation to reduce the visual impact from the road and adjacent areas. Consideration should also be given to resurfacing these areas with a material that is more visually compatible with the surrounding landscape (see Recommendations: Small-scale Features, materials).

7. Roads within the campgrounds should be kept to a minimum. New roads should be added only when required for functional needs (access and maintenance) and safety (separation of vehicular and pedestrian routes). Surface paving should be compatible with the surrounding landscape.

8. Existing service roads should be consolidated, whenever possible, to reduce their physical impact on the landscape. When and if new roads are required to facilitate park operations and maintenance, they should be informal in character and designed in a manner that incorporates existing roads and lanes whenever possible.

9. Storage of maintenance vehicles (not in use) should be concentrated in the maintenance yard at headquarters or in locations that are screened from public view.


10. Whenever possible, visitors should be encouraged to leave their vehicles and circulate through the district on foot, emphasizing a pedestrian-oriented landscape.

11. The pedestrian trail on the south side of the Scenic Drive linking the visitor center with the campground should be retained in order to reduce potential conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles.

12. Recreational hiking trails on Johnson Mesa, along the Fremont River, to the rim overlook (from the Hickman Bridge Trail), and to Cohab Canyon provide a link to other areas of the park and should be retained. Consideration should be given to interpretation of the cultural landscape from selected vista points and overlooks on all these trails.

13. Consideration should be given to enhancing the interpretive trail system throughout the district to include interpretation of the larger agricultural landscape, the relationship between natural systems and the cultural landscape, the relationship between the water courses and the historic irrigation system, and the Holt and Gifford farms (See Recommendations: Management Concepts) .



1. A comprehensive vegetation management plan should be developed for the historic district that describes current vegetation (natural and cultural), outlines objectives for management, and prescribes treatment.

2. A hazard tree survey should be undertaken in order to identify hazard trees, document a process for condition assessment and evaluation, and propose a schedule for monitoring.

3. The existing orchard management plan should be revised (see Vegetation recommendation #9, below).

Ornamental and Cultural

1. The two cottonwood trees located on the west edge of the picnic ground, the "mail tree" and its companion, are historic features and should be maintained as part of a cyclic maintenance preservation program. Although these trees have cultural value, no extraordinary attempts should be made to perpetuate the genetic purity of these specimens. The two cottonwoods are currently in stable condition but are quite old (dating to about 1870).

2. Consideration should be given to the reestablishment of Lombardy poplars at selected sites to define historic property lines, fields, and irrigation ditches. These trees were historically part of the cultural landscape and could be used as a interpretive tool for enhancing visitor understanding of nonextant features (such as home sites) and overall organization of the landscapes.

3. Black and English walnut and pecan trees remaining in the district have cultural value and should be retained. Individual specimens have been identified in the Cass Mulford Orchard, Max Krueger Orchard, and Gifford Farm. A row of eight walnut trees is located along the Scenic Drive, next to the Nels Johnson Orchard. A row of nine pecan trees and a row of eight walnut trees are located on the 'Tine Oyler Place. All of these trees should be evaluated as part of a larger hazard tree assessment for the district (see Vegetation recommendation #2, above). Based on that assessment, trees that are structurally unsound or present safety risks should be replaced in kind.

4. Nonnative ornamental trees located in the picnic area can be retained. However, when these trees need to be replaced because of damage or disease, replacement materials should be select ed from an approved plant list (see Vegetation recommendation #8, below).

5. The use of vegetation to screen contemporary development is appropriate. Plant materials used for screening views should be selected from an approved plant list, and grouped in compositions that reflect native plant communities and associations. Random or scattered specimen planting of exotic materials to create a "park-like" setting is not recommended.

Natural Vegetation

6. Riparian vegetation located along the Fremont River and Sulphur Creek should be protected and, when appropriate, restored to enhance species composition and ecosystem dynamics along both water corridors.

7. Native (or native-appearing) plant communities on the slopes and mesas bordering the historic district should be maintained. These areas were historically used to graze livestock and are an important component to the overall visual quality of the district. These areas include but are not limited to the east slope of Johnson Mesa, above Gifford Farm, the terraces above the Krueger Orchard, and the lower slopes along the east side of the district.

8. A list of appropriate plant materials for use in the housing area, administrative area, and associated with the campgrounds should be compiled by natural and cultural resource specialists. The list should give preference to native species or acceptable substitutes.


The number of orchard trees and the composition of specific seed mixes for fields and pasture lands is best addressed in an orchard management plan. In terms of the historic district, the most critical aspect in management of the agricultural landscape is in maintaining its character as a whole. This is best accomplished by maintaining a percentage of the land in orchard and field. Based on research into the historical record, the target percentages for use of agricultural lands are approximately 60 percent, (40 acres) in orchard and 40 percent (approximately 25 acres) in fields and pasture. The agricultural landscape of Fruita should not be regarded as a horticultural archive that is static, but should allow management of these resources as active, viable systems.

Park employees cutting hay
Park employees cutting hay (undated).

The use of contemporary machinery and farming practices is appropriate in maintenance of the orchards, fields, and pastures, but should not dominate management to the degree such practices threaten the historic character of the district. Recommendations for agricultural vegetation address three categories: orchards, fields, and pasture lands.


9. The existing Orchard Management Plan (1988) should be revised and updated to include current management philosophy, maintenance practices, condition assessments, disposition of crops, and procedures for record keeping. The revised document may also include information on integrated pest management, and the management and maintenance of the pastures and fields associated with the agricultural landscape of Fruita as appropriate. Guidelines in the plan should be integrated in the general vegetation management plan for the district.

10. The location and number of primary orchards as defined in this study create a cultural foot print on the landscape and should be retained. All permanent structural elements associated with the orchard, including the irrigation works (gates and ditches) and fences, should be included in a cyclic maintenance preservation program.

11. The rotation of orchards and orchard trees based on historic practices, undertaken to enhance soil fertility or conservation, is allowable within the existing agricultural footprint and percentage of land given to fruit production, as defined in this document.

12. Decisions regarding the configuration of individual trees within each orchard (grid orientation, lay-out, spacing) and replacement of diseased or unhealthy specimens should be made based on sound orchard management practices. Criteria for making these decisions should be documented and included in the orchard management plan.

13. When new trees are needed to replace damaged or diseased trees, selection should be based on the following priorities:

1) replace in kind whenever possible
2) select a variety that was grown historically
3) select a type of fruit as original tree (e.g., peach for peach)
4) availability and adaptability

14. Orchard names should be consistent through all management, maintenance, and interpretive documents.


15. Fields currently used for hay production should continue to be planted and used.


16. Existing pasture areas should continue to be planted with pasture grasses and maintained.

17. If additional areas are required to pasture livestock for interpretive or operational needs with in the historic district, they should be sited in areas that do not impact natural or cultural resources, and should be managed in compliance with all current NPS policies and guidelines.



1. All significant and contributing structures identified in the DOE should be preserved and maintained as part of a cyclic maintenance preservation program.

2. Although the Brimhall and Sprang houses lack architectural significance and are ineligible for listing in the National Register, they are not intrusive structures in the cultural landscape. Continued use of these buildings is encouraged.

3. Maintenance and service-related buildings in the district should remain concentrated in the administrative area. The addition of new maintenance buildings within the district is not recommended. If, however, new maintenance buildings are required, the following guidelines should apply:

a) Site new structures in the footprint of nonextant farm buildings whenever possible. If the foundation is eligible, this could be done after the appropriate data recovery.

b) New structures should be relatively small in scale (several small buildings are better than one large structure).

c) Exterior facades of these structures should be compatible. in material, color, mass, scale, and texture to structures historically associated with the district (see Analysis and Evaluation: Structures)

4. Residential buildings currently located in the flood plain should be removed.

Pendleton rock walls
Pendleton rock walls, 1992.

Rock Walls

5. The Pendleton rock walls on the east side of Johnson Mesa along the service road and north of the Gifford house are contributing features of the historic district. In consultation with the regional historical architect and other appropriate cultural resource specialists, the full extent and structural integrity of the walls should be documented, evaluated, and preserved as part of a cyclic maintenance program.

6. Other historic period stone walls, including the tiered, cut stone walls east of the mail tree (at the Doc Inglesby Picnic Grove) should be retained.

Irrigation System

7. Portions of the historic ditch irrigation system currently in use should be maintained and should continue to be used as the primary direct irrigation system for selected orchards and fields.

8. All intakes, sluice. channels, headworks, troughs, gates, main line ditches, settling pond, and other structural features associated with the irrigation system should be maintained as part of a cyclic maintenance preservation program.

9. Consideration should be given to the interpretation of remnant wooden flumes (along the Fremont River), iron pipes, and ditches that are part of the historic irrigation system. Examples of remnant ditches can be found on the north side of State Highway 24 (in the old oxbow of Sulphur Creek), and on the west edge of the group (Chesnut) picnic area. The latter ditches are some of the earliest ditches used in Fruita, dating to the 1890s (See Appendix G).

Retaining walls near the mail tree
Retaining walls near the mail tree, 1992.

Other Structures

10. The pedestrian footbridge crossing Sulphur Creek north of the picnic area should be maintained in a cyclic maintenance program.

11. In addition to prehistoric rock art, historic inscriptions on isolated rocks and boulders throughout the district should be inventoried, evaluated, and preserved.

12. Temporal structures associated with the orchard such as deer exclosures and miscellaneous structures used during harvest should be maintained to ensure public access and visitor safety.


1. Visual compatibility guidelines should be prepared providing design guidelines for small-scale features and criteria for the selection and use of materials throughout the district.

2. When not required for deer control or security, fences surrounding the orchards should be made of wood, small in scale, and open in character, echoing historic designs.

3. Paving surfaces throughout the district should remain informal in character. Compacted gravel surface paving materials are preferred over asphalt and/or concrete surfaces for parking areas, campgrounds, trails, and service areas.

4. Small-scale structural features in the campgrounds, such as drinking fountains, signs, fences, utilities, and trails, should be designed in a manner that is compatible with the design and material composition of these features throughout the district.

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Last Updated: 01-Apr-2003