three-toed dinosaur track in sandstone slab
Grallator track found in the Kayenta Formation

NPS image

The many sedimentary rock layers found in Capitol Reef contain clues to past environments and ancient creatures that lived here in the geologic past. The Triassic Chinle Formation is known for petrified wood--not surprising as this is the primary layer found at Petrified Forest National Park. The petrified wood in Capitol Reef is not as abundant or colorful, but a keen eye may notice some out on the trails. The Jurassic Morrison Formation is known worldwide for dinosaur fossils, (like those at Dinosaur National Monument)--not many fossils have been found in the park, but paleontologists have found many in the nearby area. Marine fossils, such as oyster shells in the Upper Cretaceous Dakota Formation tell of periods when an ancient inland sea covered the region.

Fossil trackways have been found in the Triassic Moenkopi Formation, providing information about early reptiles that roamed this ancient coastal plain and tidal flat environment. These tracks are part of North America's oldest megatracksite.

Fossils called stromatolites found in the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone show that this ancient sand dune desert was not always completely dry--at times, lakes between the sand dunes provided habitat for mats of cyanobacteria.

Fossils, like all natural features, are protected within Capitol Reef National Park. Please leave what you find--removing such objects diminishes the experience for other visitors, and removes an important piece of the scientific story of the park. If you do find an interesting fossil, please take a picture, record the location, and tell a park ranger.

Return to the main Geology page.

Last updated: December 23, 2017

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