Capitol Reef
Administrative History
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A National Monument Is Created

Before creation of the monument could be approved, final boundaries had to be determined. While Pectol continued his campaign to include more of the Sulphur Creek and Fremont River drainages, Toll and Patraw worked on refining and down-sizing the western border. Shortly after Patraw's 1935 report, Toll recommended (with Patraw's concurrence) that the recently improved, graded state highway right-of-way from Chimney Rock to Fruita should be the boundary line. This line was proposed to avoid "complications of construction or maintenance" along Utah Highway 24. From this point on, the northern perimeter of the highway's right-of-way would become part of the western boundary until a minimal expansion in 1958 absorbed the entire road. [93]

By mid-1936, Pectol was still proposing additional boundary ideas, even during a long and serious illness that almost cost his life. By this time, however, National Park Service officials were trying to finalize the boundary; additional, unsurveyed parcels were no longer desired, especially if they included private or grazed lands. [94] The only new section added was about three miles of red cliffs and mesa-top northwest of Chimney Rock to the Fishlake National Forest boundary. This included the southern edge of Meeks Mesa, which retained a few traditional grazing privileges. [95]

Toward the end of 1936, Fish Creek Cove was eliminated and the Fremont River section scaled back. In October, National Park Service Archeologist Jesse Nusbaum visited the archeological sites in Fish Creek, determining that "it was undesirable to place this section within the proposed monument" due to the extensive diggings and vandalism there. It was also recommended that the Fremont River segment be limited to the actual gorge, placing the western line just east of Carcass Creek. [96]

By the end of 1936, all known correspondence relating to the creation of Capitol Reef National Monument ended. It was now time for the Washington office to finalize boundaries and prepare a presidential proclamation. Why this took until the end of July 1937 is unknown, but a tremendous backlog of proposed areas may have been a factor. A multitude of new parks and monuments, mostly in the Southwest, were under investigation throughout 1936 and 1937. Besides the troubles with the Escalante proposal, there were also the additions to Dinosaur National Monument and the Kolob Canyon area north of Zion National Park to be considered in Utah. Organ Pipe and Kofa Mountains in Arizona, as well as a couple of sites in New Mexico, were also under investigation. Adding to the turmoil of these investigations was the unexpected death of Roger Toll in a automobile accident in the spring of 1936. The Capitol Reef proposal would have to wait its turn. [97]

The Department of the Interior finally submitted a form of proclamation to President Roosevelt at the end of July. The scientifically and beautifully unique geology of the Waterpocket Fold was the dominant reason expressed to the president as to why Capitol Reef should be set aside as a national monument. The report to Roosevelt said:

[The Waterpocket Fold is] a vast monocline, which has played a dominant part in the forming of the physiography of the plateau region, [which] is brought to a dramatic climax in the vicinity of Capitol Reef, a colorful buttressed escarpment of sandstone which extends throughout the length of the proposed monument...Here also is exhibited the work of erosion in the modeling of buttressed cliff and talus slope which are a predominating note in the physiography of the Colorado River watershed. [98]

Mentioned as a contributing factor were the "archeological remains of the Basketmakers."

Grazing interests and the concerns of private landowners in Fruita were also addressed. To insure proper protection for the new monument, all previous land withdrawals were revoked by the Secretary of Interior. This included the Federal Power Reserve sites, the 120 acres withdrawn by the State of Utah in 1930, and 3,480 acres which had been reserved for stock driveways. The secretary also signed an order excluding all monument lands from the grazing districts, thereby prohibiting grazing on any portion of the new monument. In return, the proclamation would include special regulations to accommodate the livestock drives through the area, specifying:

Nothing herein shall prevent the movement of livestock across the lands included in this monument under such regulations as may be prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior and upon driveways to be specially designated by said Secretary. [99]

As for the security of private lands, the proclamation specifically protected all valid, existing rights. The approximately 1,880 acres in private ownership, mostly in Fruita, were therefore not immediately affected by the establishment of the monument. [100]

The final boundary was very similar to that agreed upon by Patraw, Toll, and Pectol a year earlier. Capitol Reef National Monument would be 37,060 acres, approximately 58 square miles. Its dimensions were about 18 miles from the northwest tip to the southeast corner. It was roughly two to five miles wide. The only major change was elimination of the Fremont River gorge west of Fruita. Also added were small sections of land selected so that the road between Fruita and Capitol Gorge would lie almost entirely within the monument boundaries and Sections 5 and 29, Township 29, Range 7, so that the eastern boundary was a straighter line. Fruita remained within the monument, as did the southern half of Meeks Mesa. Capitol Reef, the heart of the Waterpocket Fold down to the Wayne-Garfield County line, was the backbone of the newest unit of the National Park Service (Fig. 22).

Figure 22. 1937 Final boundaries, Capitol Reef National Monument. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

On August 2, 1937, Capitol Reef National Monument was officially established. At the dedication ceremony on September 25, an optimistic future for Capitol Reef was predicted by every dignitary and supporter. Gathered at Echo Rock in Grand Wash were, among others, Gov. Blood, Rep. Murdock, Frank Martines and Ray Carr of the ACCSU, National Park Service Regional Director Kittredge, and Superintendent Patraw. The master of ceremonies was, of course, Ephraim Pectol, who after more than a decade of persistent work had finally seen his dream come true. [101]

Predictably, the elected officials spoke of the opportunities for economic stimulus that the new monument would mean for Wayne County and all of Utah. They voiced the need for rapid development of roads and tourist facilities so that visitors from around the country could come and enjoy the scenic splendors around them. The link between Capitol Reef's establishment and improved roads was again a prominent theme, just as it had been at the 1925 celebration. Gov. Blood declared:

It needs no prophet's vision to foresee the time when this monument will be one of a chain of similarly valuable scenic attractions, and when a highway system will link them with the natural bridges and the Mesa Verde National Park to the East; with the Bryce Canyon, Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks to the south, and by way of Fish Lake and the sky line road with the attractions of the Wasatch Mountains extending to the north. [102]

Blood also spoke of the need to preserve the archeological artifacts that were being stolen and vandalized across the state. Perhaps most interesting, however, is Blood's reference to the need for federal help in preserving, as well as developing, the monument's resources. He predicted:

Proper control, or at least better control than there has been in the past, will result from the establishment of this Capitol Reef National Monument. Uncle Sam will help us, and indeed, may direct us. At least we shall have the advantage of the leadership and advice of the men skilled in the handling of such problems, whom the park service may send here or choose to train from among our own people. [103]

Thus, it seemed that at least the governor was willing to listen to the National Park Service plans to protect this fledgling national monument. Few of the local residents, however, realized just how long it would take to develop and implement those plans.

Regional Director Kittredge, the highest ranking federal government official in attendance, spoke of the need to preserve the "primitive naturalness" of the national parks, alluding to damage from overgrazing as he declared:

There are great public domains which must not be devastated by erosion else our children's children must move out or starve as has happened to great areas in central China – once fertile, now barren wastes – as has begun to happen to a few of our own region....Our Secretary [Ickes] is protect the public domain against erosion. [104]

Kittredge tempered these remarks by speaking of the need and desire to develop roads and trails in the monument, but before such development could be made, he stressed, there must be a comprehensive study of the area. "We cannot afford to go into this new region," he declared, "before a scientific study has been made of objectives which must be reached and those which must not be disturbed. ["105]

For Pectol and the other early promoters of Wayne Wonderland, the need for planning was probably forgotten in the jubilant celebration of their achievement. Pectol and the others surely believed now that the monument was established, the roads would be built and the tourists would come. Yet, history of the monument's creation might have foreshadowed the delays and struggles struggles to come.

Summary And Conclusions

From the earliest attempts at promotion through the abortive state park movement, the local boosters acted independently, on their own. No one had heard of, much less visited, their Wayne Wonderland due its isolation. Once the National Park Service began to investigate the area, there were continual delays due to boundary questions, far-reaching distractions such as the Escalante National Monument proposal, and the opposition from local ranchers.

The isolation of Capitol Reef would continue until a paved road was finally built through the Fremont River canyon in the early 1960s. The physical barriers of the Waterpocket Fold and the Colorado Plateau would prevent a fast, through highway from being constructed until then. Because the physical barriers prevented access, National Park Service development was also slow in arriving. When development plans and expansion were finally ready to breach these barriers, the old opposition from ranchers and other multiple-use proponents once again emerged. The crossroads at which Capitol Reef found itself in the late 1960s was first encountered in the struggles to create the national monument in the 1930s. The cast had changed, but the issues and problems remained the same.

For an account of the growth and evolution of National Park Service management of Capitol Reef from 1937 turn to Chapter 5; or continue on to read of the monument's expansion in the 1950s and late 1960s, and its establishment as a national park in 1971.


1 Robert Shankland, Steve Mather of the National Parks, 2nd ed. (New York: Alfred Knopf Press, Inc., 1954) 138-139.

2 Alfred Runte, National Parks: the American Experience (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979, revised 2nd ed., 1987) 82-105, is a thorough treatment of the beginning days of the National Park Service and its attempts to attract wealthy tourists.

3 Ibid., 139-140.

4 Anne Snow, Rainbow Views: A History of Wayne County, 4th ed. (Springville, Utah: Art City Publishing, 1985) 79, gives a good account of early road-building in Wayne County. Also see Dwight King, "The Blue Dugway," Utah Historical Quarterly 49 (Winter 1981): 66-67, for a flavorful description of travel on the Blue Dugway; and Angus M. Woodbury, A History of Southern Utah and Its National Parks (published by author, 1950) 205-209, for a comparative account of road building and development around Zion and Bryce Canyons.

5 Charles Kelly, "Biographical Sketch of Ephraim Pectol," Charles Kelly Unpublished Writings, Capitol Reef National Park Unprocessed Archives, 2; Snow, Rainbow Views, 148-149.

6 Charles Kelly, "History of Capitol Reef National Monument," Box 3, Folder 12, Capitol Reef National Park Archives, 12.

7 House Bill 56, Utah State Legislature, 16th Session, Utah State Archives.

8 See Patrick W. O'Bannon "Capitol Reef National Park: A Historic Resource Study," June 1992, 60, prepared for National Park Service, on file, Intermountain Regional Office, Denver as an example.

9 Snow, Rainbow Views, 149.

10 Kelly, "History of Capitol Reef National Monument," 12.

11 Richfield Reaper, 9 July 1925.


13 Ibid., 23 July 1925.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 1927 House Journal, Utah State Legislature, 17th Session, Utah State Historical Society Archives, 36-37.

19 Ben Thompson to Moskey, 19 February 1937, Box 1, Folder 5, Capitol Reef National Park Archives; 97, General Land Office Township and Range Plats, Book 57, Records of the Bureau of Land Management, RG 49, National Archives - Suitland, Maryland. State archivists searched through official state and governor's records and correspondence, but found nothing in reference to this land withdrawal.

20 Kelly, "Biographical Sketch of Joseph S. Hickman," 12 February 1952, Charles Kelly Unpublished Writings, Capitol Reef National Park Unprocessed Archives, 3.

21 H.B. 127, 17th Utah Legislature, 1927.

22 "Preliminary Staff Reports, Utah State Planning Board," Series 1164, State Planning Board, Independent Commissions Reports, 1934-1941, Utah State Historical Society Archives, Salt Lake City, 10.

23 Ibid.; Dr. Everett Cooley, former director of the Utah State Historical Society and former State Park Commission member, telephone conversation with author, 30 November 1993.

24 Kelly, "Biographical Sketch of Ephraim P. Pectol"; Snow, Rainbow, 148, 164.

25 Kelly, "Biographical Sketch," 2; Snow, Rainbow, 149.

26 Kelly, "Biographical Sketch," 2; Snow, Rainbow, 149.

27 Allen to Horace Albright, 15 July 1931, File NPS-100, Accession #79-60A-354, Cont. #63179, Box 1, Records of the National Park Service, Record Group 79 (RG 79), National Archives and Record Center - Rocky Mountain Region, Denver (hereafter referred to as NA-Denver).

28 Ibid., 2.

29 Arno Cammerer to Horace Albright, 8 August 1930, Toll Papers, Box 1, Folder 2, Western History Collection, Denver Public Library.

30 Allen to Albright, Ibid.

31 Ibid. No bills, resolutions or hearings have been found in the Congressional Record documenting any attempt by the Utah congressional delegation to support the creation of Wayne Wonderland park.

32 Ibid.

33 Allen to Toll, 15 July 1931, File NPS-100, 79-60A-354, Container #63179, Box 1, RG 79, NA-Denver.

34 Robert Shankland, Steve Mather of the National Parks, 247-248.

35 Allen to Albright, 30 July 1931, File 207, Entry 7, Box 2063, Central Classified Files 1907-49, RG 79, National Archives, Washington, D.C. (hereafter referred to as NA).

36 Ibid.

37 Cameron to Allen, 4 October 1931, File NPS-100, Box 1, 79-60A-354, RG 79, NA-Denver. No record of the description from the ACCSU has been found.

38 Cameron to Allen, 30 November 1931, Ibid.

39 Toll Papers, Box 1, Folder 2, Western History Collection, Denver Public Library.

40 Toll to NPS Director, 8 November 1932, Box 1, Folder 1, Capitol Reef National Park Archives.

41 Ibid., 2.

42 Barry Mackintosh, The National Parks: Shaping the System (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, 1991) 10-59, passim; John Ise, Our National Park Policy: A Critical History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1961) 339-354.

43 Mackintosh, 22-59; Ise, 411.

44. Elmo R. Richardson, "The Escalante National Monument Controversy of 1935-1940," Utah Historical Quarterly 33 (Spring 1965): 110-111.

45 Hal Rothman, "Shaping the Nature of a Controversy: The Park Service, the Forest Service, and the Cedar Breaks Proposal," Utah Historical Quarterly 55 (Summer 1987): 219-223.

46 Ibid., 225.

47 Ibid.

48 Ibid., 226-235.

49 House Concurrent Motion No. 4, Laws of the State of Utah passed by the 20th Legislature, Utah State Historical Society Archives, 161-162; Richfield Reaper, 2 March 1933.

50 H.C.M. No. 4. This is the first time a national monument is mentioned as acceptable in any correspondence from Utah. In all previous letters, a national park was the only designation sought.

51 Richfield Reaper, 2 March 1933.

52 H.C.M. No. 4.

53 Toll Investigation, 1934 Report, File NPS 000, 60A-354, Container 63179, Box 1, RG 79, NA-Denver.

54 Albright to Pectol, 18 March 1933, Box 11, Entry 20, Records of Roger W. Toll, RG 79, NA.

55 "1934 Toll Report on Proposed Wayne Wonderland," Box 11, Entry 20, Box 11, RG 79, NA.

56 Ibid.

57 Ibid.

58 Ibid. The accompanying map to the 1934 Toll report (#9) found in the Capitol Reef National Park Archives gives slightly larger boundaries than those listed in the actual report. This enlargement could be an incorporation of Toll's final suggestions.

59 Parks Commission Files, Correspondence of Gov. Blood 1933-34, Series 021003, Utah State Historical Society Archives.

60 Ibid.; Harold Ickes to William King, 28 February 1934, File 12-0, Part IV, Box 1972, Records of the Secretary of the Interior, RG 48, NA.

61 Petition included in 1934 Toll report.

62 Toll to Pectol, 13 April 1934, and Pectol to Toll, 1 May 1934, Box 11, Entry 20, RG 79, NA.

63 Clarke, "To Whom It May Concern," 4 May 1934, Ibid.

64 Ibid. If the monument were to be created with such boundaries, it would have looked somewhat like a rectangle eight miles by eight miles, with a northwest arm extending out to Chimney Rock, a shorter eastern extension along the Fremont River, and a jog around the private lands of Fruita. The size would be roughly 32 square miles.

65 Toll to Pectol, 8 May 1934, Ibid.

66 "Recreational Report of Utah, Preliminary Staff Reports, Utah State Planning Board," Series 1154, State Planning Board, Independent Commissions, Reports 1934-1941, Utah State Historical Society Archives, 5.

67 "Recreation Report of Utah," 5,10-12, Ibid.

68 Maier to Arentz, 22 July 1934, Correspondence, Series 1161, Utah State Historical Society Archives. (The actual application has not been located.)

69 Cammerer to Ickes, 11 January 1935, File 12-0, Part IV, Box 1972, RG 48, NA.

70 Wirth to Pectol, 25 January 1935, File 100, 79-60A-354, Box 1, Container #63179, RG 79, NA-Denver.

71 Demaray to Pectol, 26 April 1935, box 11, Entry 20, RG 79, NA.

72 "A State Plan for Utah," Progress Report, 15 April 1935, Series 1164, State Planning Board, Independent Commission, Reports 1934-41, Utah State Historical Society Archives.

73 Cammerer to Carr, 2 February 1935, File NPS-100, 79-60A-354, Box 1, RG 79, NA-Denver.

74 Patraw to Carr, 11 February 1935, Ibid.

75 Richfield Reaper, 14 February 1935.

76 Patraw to NPS Director, 28 March 1933, File NPS-100, 79-60A-354, Box 1, RG 79, NA-Denver.

77 Richfield Reaper, 28 March 1935.

78 P. P. Patraw, "Report on Proposed Wayne Wonderland National Monument," August 1935, Box 1, Folder 2, Capitol Reef National Park Archives. This report also contains the first known naturalist's report regarding the proposed monument since the Powell survey in the 1870s.

79 Ibid., 5.

80 Ibid., 2.

81 Ibid.

82 Ibid., 6.

83 Johnathan Scott Thow, "Capitol Reef: The Forgotten National Park," (Utah State University Master's Thesis, 1986) 47, uses the local paper, the Richfield Reaper, as his source regarding the unpopularity of the name.

84 See headlines and stories in the Richfield Reaper, 23 and 30 July 1925, for examples.

85 Toll to Pectol, 23 August 1935, Box 11, Entry 20, Box 11, RG 79, NA.

86 Pectol to Toll, 31 August 1935, Ibid.

87 Pectol to Demaray, 1 April 1936, File NPS-100, 79-60A-354, Box 1, RG 79, NA-Denver.

88 Ibid.

89 Tolson to Toll, 17 August 1935, Box 11, Entry 20, RG 79, NA.

90 Toll to Patraw, 16 December 1935; Tillotson to Director, 18 December 1935, File NPS-100, 79-60A-354, Box 1, RG 79, NA-Denver. "Notes on Proposed Escalante National Monument," April 1936, Series 1171, Utah Economic Resources 1930-49, Utah State Historical Society Archives, contains an NPS-generated map that shows the Capitol Reef boundaries within the proposed Escalante National Monument.

91 Elmo R. Richardson, "The Escalante National Monument Controversy of 1935-1940," 114-117.

92 Ibid., 117-133.

93 Toll to Patraw, 19 August 1935 and Patraw to Toll 22 August 1935, Box 11, Entry 20, RG 79, NA. Pectol's desire to include the Sulphur Creek and Fremont drainages to the west may be in part due to the extensive archeological exploration he had done in those areas for many years.

94 Pectol to Patraw, 31 January 1936, File NPS-100, 79-60A-354, Box 1, RG 79, NA-Denver, is an example of many of the letters from Pectol at this time.

95 Cammerer to Pectol, January 1936, Ibid.

96 Patraw to Director, 27 October 1936, Ibid.

97 Ise, Our National Park Policy, 422-423.

98 West (for Ickes) to Roosevelt, 26 July 1937, OF 928, NPS 1937-38, Box 1, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

99 Presidential Proclamation, "Establishment of Capitol Reef National Monument," Proclamation 2246, Federal Register 2, No. 151, 2 August 1937: 136. The impact of grazing on the monument is described in Volume II, Chapter 12.

100 Ibid.; West to Roosevelt, 26 July 1937.

101 Richfield Reaper, 30 September 1937.

102 Henry H. Blood Dedication Speech, (typed copy) 5, File CR 101-01, 79-60A-354, Box 1, RG 79, NA-Denver.

103 Ibid., 4.

104 Frank Kittredge Dedication Speech, Ibid., 1.

105 Ibid., 2.

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