Capitol Reef
Administrative History
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This section summarizes the numerous National Park Service planning documents for the national monument and park, from the initial investigation in 1934 through 1994. Documents specific to an individual issue are usually summarized within pertinent chapters. The purpose of this final chapter is to give park managers some idea of the information contained in the larger, often multi-topic management plans and resource surveys, and to provide document locations. Another purpose is to summarize the content of each document.

Capitol Reef's planning documents can be organized into six groups:

  1. Initial Investigations and Reports

  2. General Management Plans, Development Outlines, and Statements for Management

  3. Wilderness and Land Protection Plans

  4. Natural Resources

  5. Cultural Resources

  6. Interpretation

Included in each summary are the document's known location(s), its date and source (if known), background information, and a general list of the topics it covers. Each summary will conclude with an annotation regarding the document's utility for future park managers and personnel.

Not included within this list of planning documents are the various Superintendent's Annual Reports from Zion (before the monument was officially activated) from 1937 to 1950; the Superintendent's Monthly Reports, 1950 to 1967; the Log of Significant Events from 1967 to 1971; or the Superintendent's Annual Reports after 1977. These contemporary summaries of management concerns, found in either the park archives or historic superintendent's files, have proven invaluable in the writing of this administrative history. These reports should be read by all incoming managers at Capitol Reef National Park.

Initial Investigations And Reports

Report On Proposed Wayne Wonderland National Monument - 1934

By Roger W. Toll, Superintendent, Yellowstone National Park [1]

Document found in:

  1. Records of the National Park Service, Record Group 79 (hereafter referred to as RG 79), Accession 79-60A-354, Container 63179, Box 1, File NPS-000, National Archives - Rocky Mountain Region, Denver, Colorado (hereafter referred to as NA-Denver).

  2. RG 79, Entry 20, Box 11, National Archives, Washington, D.C. (hereafter referred to as NA).

  3. Box 1, Folder 2, Capitol Reef Archives.

  4. Files compiled during research and writing of Capitol Reef Administrative History (hereafter referred to as Admin. History Files).

In early November 1933, Roger W. Toll, Superintendent at Yellowstone and designated investigator of proposed National Park Service sites in the Western United States, made his second trip to south-central Utah to investigate the possibilities of creating a Wayne Wonderland National Monument. The Utah State Legislature had recently passed a resolution to include three units in Wayne County in a new national park or monument. Toll's task was to examine and assess each unit and make recommendations to National Park Service Director Arno B. Cammerer. [2]

Toll's 1934 report contains detailed legal descriptions for the three proposed units, discusses the general scenic and scientific features of each, and gives a little detail on land ownership, history of the project to date, and the divided local sentiment toward a national monument in the area. There is also a brief listing of significant features and how their names were derived, a short bibliography, and an itinerary of Toll's tour of the area.

The most important features of this report are Toll's recommendations. In his opinion, Unit #1 (Velvet Ridge between Torrey and Bicknell) was not worthy of inclusion. Instead, Toll recommended that Units #2 and #3, which included most of the original monument boundaries plus a good-sized portion of the Upper Fremont River Canyon, be immediately withdrawn from entry and the area designated as Wayne Wonderland National Monument.

This report is extremely important because it is the first detailed analysis of Capitol Reef by a National Park Service official. Descriptions of roads, Fruita, and prospective accommodations are useful, but the most significant contribution of this document is the detailed study of the potential boundaries and Toll's recommendation that the area be considered as a future national monument as opposed to a national park. This report was the first necessary step toward the creation of Capitol Reef National Monument in 1937.

Proposed Wayne Wonderland (Capitol Reef) National Monument - 1935

By Preston P. Patraw, Superintendent, Zion National Park

Document found in:

  1. RG 79, Accession 79-60A-354, Container 63179, Box 1, File CR 101, NA-Denver.

  2. Box 1, Folder 2, Capitol Reef Archives.

  3. Photographs are found in Capitol Reef Photo collection, Capitol Reef Unprocessed Archives.

  4. Administrative History Notes and Files.

In August 1935, Zion National Park Superintendent Preston Patraw conducted a further investigation of the proposed national monument. The narrative of this report is more detailed and descriptive than Toll's. It covers the following topics:

  1. general location and description;

  2. accessibility;

  3. general characteristics of area;

  4. land ownership and values;

  5. local sentiment;

  6. potential water supplies and tourist facilities; and

  7. name for proposed monument. (Patraw recommends changing name from Wayne Wonderland to Capitol Reef.)

Also included in the Patraw report is a list of the land plats within the proposed boundaries -- including each of the landowners at Fruita and a tabulated list of alienated and open lands by legal description. Incorporated within the Patraw report is a cursory list of wildlife reported in the Capitol Reef area, compiled by Wildlife Technician A. E. Borrell. As part of the Patraw investigation, numerous photographs were taken by George Grant and several aerial photographs with the proposed boundaries sketched in were provided.

The significance of the 1935 Patraw Report l lies in:

  1. its recommendation to change the name from Wayne Wonderland to Capitol Reef, the term given to the area of the Waterpocket Fold on both sides of the Fremont River canyon where many sandstone domes were shaped like capitol rotunda;

  2. the stretching of the southern boundary down to the Garfield County line;

  3. the elimination of Fish Creek Cove from consideration;

  4. a discussion of negative sentiment toward the monument from area ranchers; and

  5. the 1935 compilation of specific landownership boundaries.

Special Report on Flora and Fauna - 20 October 1939

By Joseph S. Dixon, Field Naturalist

Document found in:

  1. RG 79, Entry 7, Box 2063, File 207, NA.

  2. Document #158-D-49, Technical Information Center, Denver.

  3. Box 1, Folder 5, Capitol Reef Archives.

  4. Administrative History Notes and Files.

Considering that this is the monument's first detailed report by a National Park Service naturalist, Dixon's report is disappointing. Of its eight pages, five are spent almost exclusively discussing the location and construction of the Hickman Bridge trail, then under construction by the CCC. The sections on anthropology and flora are too brief to be of much value, and the faunal lists cover only a few common species. Dixon recommends further study of the area, improving the road to allow for better visitor access, and continued concession competition. Aside from the list of common species found in the region and photos of the Hickman Bridge trail, this report is not of great value or significance.

Special Report - Capitol Reef National Monument - May 1940

By W. B. McDougall, Regional Biologist

Document found in:

  1. RG 79, Accession 79-60A-354, Container 63179, Box 1, File 204-10, NA-Denver.

  2. Document # 158-D-48, TIC.

  3. Box 1, Folder 5, Capitol Reef Archives.

  4. Administrative History Notes and Files.

This is another disappointing report. Because of transportation problems and threats of rain, Regional Biologist McDougall spent only about a day in the monument, never leaving the main road. He provides a short list of plants and observes evidence of overgrazing. He also mentions that the CCC-constructed ranger station is almost completed. The lack of detailed information on the natural resources of Capitol Reef National Monument during its early years is an unfortunate omission.

General Management Plans, Development Outlines And Task Directives

Development Outline For Capitol Reef National Monument - 1 March 1938

Submitted by Preston P. Patraw, Superintendent, Zion National Park

Document found in:

  1. RG 79, Accession 79-60A-354, Container 63180, Box 2, File CR-600-01 Master Plans, NA-Denver.

  2. Administrative History Notes and Files.

This is the earliest known formal planning document relating specifically to Capitol Reef National Monument. At the time of the document's submittal, the monument was less than one year old and had no allocated budget or personnel.

The 1938 development outline is only three pages long. The first page and a half discuss the monument's location and potential. Specifically mentioned are the campaign to improve the road through the monument and the desire to focus tourist accommodations in Torrey rather than inside the monument. Fruita is identified as the logical place to locate monument headquarters, and the desire to purchase the private inholdings in Fruita as soon as possible is clearly stated.

The minimal existing road system (Utah 24 through Capitol Gorge and a spur south to Pleasant Creek) and trails ("barely passable saddle trail to Hickman Bridge") are only briefly mentioned, as is the out-of-service single telephone line through Capitol Gorge.

Besides the fairly early suggestion to purchase the inholdings and locate the headquarters at Fruita, the significance of this brief document lies in its project plans. The 1938 development outline recommends a paved highway be constructed from the west boundary through Fruita and then either follow the Fremont River, Grand Wash, or Pleasant Creek. It also recommends maintaining minor but oiled road status into Grand Wash (if not chosen for the main route) and Capitol Gorge. Proposed additions to the trail system included saddle and foot trails from Grand Wash to Hickman Bridge and from the Fremont River west of Fruita to the "upper plateau." A single stock driveway was also to be either built or designated.

Construction needs were listed as a "ranger-checking station," museum, and sewage disposal systems. Other listed needs were: boundary survey and postings; archeological survey and mapping; range survey and mapping; geological survey and mapping; boundary, stock driveway, and stock drift fencing; and maintenance of the existing but very poor telephone line.

General Development Plan - 1939 - Drawing Nm CR 2004a

Document found in:

  1. #158 20001, National Park Service, Denver Service Center, Technical Information Center, Denver.

  2. Drawer 9, Folder 1, Capitol Reef Archives (incomplete).

This is a set of colored maps showing existing and proposed developments for Capitol Reef National Monument. There is no known text that corresponds with these maps.

Development Outline For Capitol Reef National Monument - January 1943

Submitted by Paul R. Franke, Superintendent, Zion National Park

Document found in:

  1. RG 79, Accession 79-60A-354, Container 63180, Box 2, File CR-600-02, NA-Denver.

  2. Administrative History Notes and Files.

This is a fairly detailed narrative on existing conditions, landholdings, significant themes, and future objectives at a time when there was still no budget or paid custodian for the monument. [3]

The significant theme of Capitol Reef is its geology, with the secondary theme being archeology. The monument is noted as "unique in National Park areas," as the only place set aside for preservation and interpretation of the Fremont Culture.

Populations of the nearby communities are estimated and the various access routes are discussed. Visitation is estimated at 2,100 for 1941 and 1,000 for 1942. It also mentions that Doc Inglesby had been asked to monitor a U.S. Weather Bureau station.

The only encumbrance mentioned is Utah 24 through Capitol Gorge, which was the only right-of-way in the monument. According to this 1943 development outline, preliminary survey work by the Federal Roads Administration and the Utah State Highway Commission had been completed in 1940 for a new road through the Fremont River canyon. It recommends that the abandoned telephone line be removed.

As far as water rights are concerned, the Fremont River and Pleasant Creek are listed as good quality, and Sulphur Creek as alkaline. The specific water rights held by the residents of Fruita are listed. Only Fremont River water, considered usually "roily" or muddy, is mentioned.

The specific acreages of state, county, and private inholdings are shown in this document, which estimates 1,000 acres of orchards within the monument. There are also revealing details concerning the voiding of all known mining claims within the monument.

The only significant policy statements in the 1943 development outline concerned the Fruita inholdings and the need for boundary adjustments. Zion National Park Superintendent Paul Franke believed that the private property within the monument should not be acquired by the National Park Service because of the hardship that the loss of tax revenues would place on the county. Franke argued that encouragement and cooperation would help maintain the properties "in conformity with standards to be established," and that only "small units of water" need be purchased for future park development.

Superintendent Franke recommended that the northeast boundary line, which ran along the southern edge of Utah 24, be changed to coincide with sectional lines. This would bring an additional 1,032.32 scenic acres to the monument. Franke also urged that the Floral Ranch on Pleasant Creek be acquired, even though it was not within monument boundaries.

The 1943 development outline is a useful and valuable document. It gives an excellent idea of the National Park Service's initial perceptions of the area, its significant features, interpretive themes, and current accessibility at a time when little investment (besides CCC construction projects) had been made at Capitol Reef. The development outline also lists private, state, county, and federal acreage, water rights allocations, and the specific mining claims and the process in which they were invalidated. This is the first planning document that reverses earlier plans to purchase Fruita inholdings, and the first to call for changing the monument boundary away from the highway and for including the Floral Ranch.

Master Plan And Development Outline - January 1949

Submitted by Charles J. Smith, Superintendent, Zion National Park

Document found in:

  1. RG 79, Accession 79-60A-354, Container 63180, Box 2, File CR-600-01, NA-Denver.

  2. Administrative History Notes and Files (partial copy).

This is the most detailed planning document to date. It may have been significant in finally activating Capitol Reef National Monument and acquiring funding for a full-time employee.

The document is divided into two parts: the first details the current conditions and problems and the second is a planning prospectus. The standard descriptions of the area, its accessibility, climate, and general statistics have not changed since 1943. Page 13, however, contains an excellent table listing statistics related to government property, miles of boundary, roads and trails, and the lack of a campground. Visitation for 1948 is given as 4,834 cars for a total of 17,094 people.

The 1949 development theme for Capitol Reef places the "high class of visitor," including adventurers, students, artists, and writers, as the type of tourist most often seen in the area. According to the document, "It would seem that this class of use should set the theme for development." [4]

Objectives for Capitol Reef included:

  1. acquisition of a full time employee;

  2. construction of sanitary facilities, a campground, "suitable and proper" lodging, gas, and grocery supplies and an information station; and

  3. advanced planning for the eventual paved highway through the monument. Yet, until the new highway's route was known, the final site of the monument's headquarters would have to be delayed.

A constant theme throughout the document is the dilemma over what to do with the private inholdings at Fruita. Superintendent Smith recommends that the residents of Fruita should not be bought out, at least for the present. Yet the document also notes that the limitations and uncertainty of future development of the inholdings, and their detrimental aesthetic qualities, seem to make continued private ownership of Fruita undesirable.

Other topics covered by the 1949 Master Plan Development Outline include:

  1. a need for minor boundary revisions and a definitive boundary survey;

  2. private land and water rights status;

  3. visitor trends, use and problems; and

  4. the current problem of poor concessions.

Another significant feature of the 1949 master plan Development Outline is the first known, detailed analysis of the monument's interpretive themes. These themes, in order, are:

  1. geology and paleontology;

  2. archeology;

  3. history; and

  4. National Park Service purpose and story.

Future personnel needs listed include a permanent superintendent, ranger, and a maintenance man to be supplemented during the summer by seasonal rangers, naturalists, and day laborers. The only usable building was the Chesnut property, since the CCC ranger station was without water and a finished interior.

Attached to the 1949 development outline is a rough draft of a fire protection plan, which gives detailed information on the current roads and trails, future construction needs, and contemporary tree, insect, and grazing control measures.

This document is an excellent source for establishing Capitol Reef's themes, problems, and anticipated needs immediately prior to its official activation in 1950.

Master Plan And Development Outline - December 1953

Prepared by Charles Kelly, Superintendent, Capitol Reef National Monument.

Document found in:

  1. RG 79, Accession 79-67A-337, Container 919498, Box 1, File D18, NA-Denver.

  2. Administrative History Notes and Files (partial copy).

The 1953 master plan was written by Charles Kelly, in part to clear up deficiencies in the 1949 plan. Yet, in many instances, virtually the same data are found here as in the 1949 master plan and development outline. The 1953 master plan narrative has four sections: an introduction, general information, detailed examinations of monument operations, and proposed developments.

The operations section includes an operations prospectus and detailed information on the current interpretive themes and practices, the state of forestry, soil and water conservation, and concessions. It is also apparent that by 1953 the dilemma over private inholdings at Fruita had not yet been resolved. The development section concentrates on current conditions and potential needs. Construction proposals include a water system and campground, a museum and office building, a utility area with associated buildings, and additional residences.

Special problems at the monument in 1953, listed in order, are:

  1. uranium mining within the monument boundaries;

  2. the location of headquarters and the need to purchase lands for future development; and

  3. the current decision to maintain the private village of Fruita.

This is yet another valuable document. A complete copy should be placed in the park archives.

MISSION 66 PROSPECTUS - April 17, 1956

Likely prepared at Zion National Park.

Besides this final, director-approved draft, there are several preliminary drafts found alongside -- some with more details than others. There is also a general narrative prospectus, which lists some of the needs and proposed changes for Capitol Reef, found in Box 3, Folder 3, Capitol Reef Archives.

Since the final Mission 66 Prospectus submitted in April 1956 is the most detailed and only draft known to have been approved, it is the one that will be examined here. This document, related drafts and correspondence can be found in:

  1. RG 79, Accession 79-67A-337, Container 919498, Box 1, File A9815, NA-Denver.

  2. Administrative History Notes and Files (partial collection).

The Mission 66 Prospectus was the guiding document for changing Capitol Reef National Monument from a sleepy backroads curiosity to a fully functioning, increasingly popular unit of the national park system. Nevertheless, virtually all Mission 66 developments at Capitol Reef were delayed until the present highway through the Fremont Canyon was completed in 1962. In the six-year gap between prospectus and actual money allocation, some of the goals and specific plans were changed.

The document's statement of significance and the management and development theme stress the geologic magnificence and beauty of the Waterpocket Fold. Of secondary importance are the archeology, history, and flora and fauna. In 1956, National Park Service officials believed that the adventurous elite, which had always constituted the majority of visitors to the monument, would inevitably be joined by "less specialized" visitors, all staying for one to several days at a time. [5] A significant problem noted in these introductory statements is the lack of a campground and other adequate visitor accommodations, better roads, trails, a visitor center, and other "assurances of health and bodily comfort." [6] Another dilemma is the lack of level ground on which to build these accommodations. The prospectus also clearly states the inevitability of a paved road through the monument in the near future.

A proposed organization chart is included along with an appendix containing tables detailing the proposed phase in of new positions and associated costs in administration, protection, interpretation, and maintenance.

Visitation by 1966 was projected to be 300,000 as opposed to the less than 20,000 visitors in 1956. Facilities needed to accommodate this dramatic increase included: a 50-car campground at Fruita (to be expanded later to 100 sites or supplemented by a 50-site campground at Pleasant Creek); the building of a visitor center; an expanded interpretive program; and the building of adequate maintenance facilities, park housing and improved roads and trails.

The recommended concessions policy was to prohibit additional overnight or motor tour concessions within the monument until 1966. Grocery and camping supplies, food and drink, and a gas station would be encouraged and handled through special-use permits. This concessions policy was to be re-evaluated in 1966.

There are two significant features of the Mission 66 Prospectus that forever changed management policies at Capitol Reef. One was the proposal to close Capitol Gorge to through traffic once the main highway was rerouted through the Fremont River canyon. The old highway would become a scenic drive designed to encourage visitors to spend more time within the monument. [7]

The other significant decision was to purchase all the private inholdings and associated water rights at Fruita and the Pleasant Creek properties adjacent to the monument boundary. The document also urged that all 1,900 acres of state land be exchanged as soon as possible. The main reason for this final decision to transfer Fruita from private to National Park Service control was the overriding need for land and water to accommodate rising visitation. Management of the orchards is never addressed.

Another proposal called for changing the western boundary to "legal subdivision lines," thereby removing uncertainty and conflicts associated with the current boundary along the ever-changing highway and, as a result, provide additional protection to the western viewscape. [8]

This is a crucial document in the management history of Capitol Reef National Monument and Park. This Mission 66 Prospectus provided the foundation and framework for bringing Capitol Reef National Monument into the modern era. Although some of the staffing and construction estimates proved incorrect, determinations to purchase Fruita and Pleasant Creek lands, adjust boundaries, and change visitor circulation patterns would drive park policies in the headquarters area for the next 40 years.

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Last Updated: 10-Dec-2002