Discover the captivating wonder of Capitol Reef National Park through the extraordinary feature known as the Waterpocket Fold. This nearly 100-mile-long warp in the Earth's crust, known as a monocline, offers a spectacular step-up in the rock layers. Formed between 50 and 70 million years ago during the Laramide Orogeny, a significant mountain-building event in western North America, the Waterpocket Fold came to be when a buried fault was reactivated in this region. The movement along the fault caused the west side to shift upwards, resulting in a striking monocline. The west side of the fold has been uplifted over 7,000 feet higher than the east side.
Over time, as the Colorado Plateau experienced uplift and erosion, the Waterpocket Fold was exposed to the surface within the last 15 to 20 million years. The name "Waterpocket Fold" embodies the ongoing erosion of the rock layers. These layers showcase the creation of "waterpockets," small depressions formed by water erosion in the sandstone layers abundant throughout Capitol Reef's fold. Today, the tilted rock layers continue to erode, giving rise to vibrant cliffs, grand domes, towering spires, striking monoliths, winding canyons, and elegant arches. Embark on an adventure through this remarkable landscape and witness the dynamic evolution of nature's artistry.
Experience the captivating landscape of Cathedral Valley in Thousand Lake Mountain, where the Waterpocket Fold gently fades away. Here, the rock layers showcase a subtle incline of three to five degrees towards the east, seemingly lying flat.
This unique valley has been shaped by powerful erosion, sculpting magnificent standalone monoliths known as temples. These awe-inspiring formations are made of the soft, reddish-orange Entrada Sandstone, originally deposited as sandy mud on a tidal flat. Some cathedrals are adorned with a thin layer of tough, greenish-gray marine sandstone called the Curtis Formation.
In addition to the Entrada Sandstone temples, Cathedral Valley offers a glimpse into other fascinating geological processes. The dissolving of gypsum, a soluble mineral from the underlying Carmel Formation, has resulted in the formation of Glass Mountain and the Gypsum Sinkhole. Glass Mountain stands as an exposed plug of gypsum. At the same time, the Gypsum Sinkhole is a testament to a dissolved gypsum deposit.
Furthermore, Upper Cathedral Valley reveals the remnants of volcanic activity three to six million years ago. Dikes, sills, and small volcanic plugs known as volcanic features can be found here, showcasing the dynamic history of this remarkable landscape.
Thousands of years ago, powerful plate tectonic forces caused the entire region to rise vertically, transforming the landscape. While most of the plateau retains its distinctive "layer cake" appearance with horizontal rock layers, Capitol Reef stands out as a magnificent anomaly. Explore the unique formation known as the Waterpocket Fold and delve into the geological wonders of this exceptional natural phenomenon.