Visitor Center

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Many visitors start their visit to any national park at the visitor center. These buildings contain a wealth of information, from rangers to answer questions, to exhibits to learn more about the park, to the bookstore to buy informational material and souvenirs.

Over the decades that Capitol Reef has been part of the National Park Service, the visitor center has undergone many changes, but has always provided information and help to people.
 
Three exhibits on history and geology. Scenic background images with text and interactives.

Recent Renovations and New Exhibits

The new visitor center exhibits interpret the park's human history, diverse plant and animal life, and the iconic geology of the Waterpocket Fold. Through photographs and text, interactive features, and videos, visitors come away with a greater understanding of the significance of Capitol Reef National Park.

Visitor center improvements were funded by your fee dollars.

Exhibit audio description available.

 
Architectural drawing of the visitor center
Noted Park Service architect Cecil Doty provided a vision for Capitol Reef's new Mission 66-style visitor center.

NPS

Mission 66 Visitor Center

Mission 66 was an initiative to make parks more accessible by the National Park Service’s 50th anniversary in 1966. Private land in the Fruita area was acquired to complete the new State Route 24 and entrance to Capitol Reef National Monument within the Fremont River corridor.

Construction for the current visitor center began in 1964 and was completed by 1965. Designs for Capitol Reef’s new visitor center were drawn by Cecil Doty, an architect for the National Park Service. Arthur K. Olsen & Associates of Salt Lake City also played a role in its creation.

During this period, the face of Fruita and Capitol Reef changed. Formerly private structures were removed as part of the park management plan. Mission 66 was also the impetus to create or improve hiking trails, including the Cassidy Arch Trail which previously had been a rough route.

Little changed inside the visitor center from the 1960s til the early 2000s, when the exhibits received a basic refresh. Some sensitive cultural artifacts were removed, and updated human history was added.

 
Small stone building in rocky landscape, with dramatic spiked  cliffs.
The first Ranger Station was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. This photograph of it is from 1950.

NPS/Natt N. Dodge, Charles Kelly, and Paul R. Franke

Civilian Conservation Corps Ranger Station

Even though Capitol Reef became a national monument in 1937, there were no official park buildings until 1940, when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built the first ranger station from sandstone quarried near Chimney Rock. It is a classic example of the rustic style of architecture produced by the NPS during the Great Depression.

Unfortunately, a lack of water at its location caused it to sit vacant and subject to vandalism for ten years, before it was wired for electricity and put to its original purpose as a visitor contact station in 1950. The ranger station was used by Charles Kelly, the first custodian, ranger, and later superintendent of Capitol Reef National Monument. In 1959 the ranger station was remodeled as the park headquarters and museum.

When the current visitor center was built in 1965, the CCC building was converted into the park superintendent’s office, still in use today. During the CCC’s tenure at Capitol Reef, crews improved roads and trails such as the route to Hickman Bridge, which was a popular yet rough path that local park supporters forged before Capitol Reef was designated as a national monument. Before the CCC was disbanded in 1942, over two million men had worked in 94 national park and monument sites, contributing to the face of the National Park Service for decades to come.

 

Last updated: October 19, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

HC 70, Box 15
Torrey , UT 84775

Phone:

435-425-3791
Recorded park information available 24 hours a day. Phones are answered when staff is available. If no one answers, please leave a message, your call will be returned. Questions may also be sent to care_information@nps.gov.

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