Nature & Science

Capitol Reef National Park protects many natural wonders, including geologic formations, unusual plants and animals, and amazing dark night skies.

 
Sparkling river with green banks, colorful cliffs nearby, and blue sky above.

Water in the Desert

Water shapes the landscape, gives life to plants and animals, and determines where people live and prosper.

Night skies in Capitol Reef National Park

International Dark Sky Park

Discover Capitol Reef's dark night skies.

A hiker standing under Hickman Natural Bridge

Geology

Learn about the geologic processes that created the Waterpocket Fold.

Tree-toed proto-dinosaur swim smears fossilized in mud.

Fossils

Learn about the fossil record in Capitol Reef.

Large, rounded black boulders with red cactus flowers in foreground and large red sandstone cliffs a

Basalt Boulders

Discover how these volcanic rocks fit into the Capitol Reef geologic story.

Bumpy black crust covering ground, with a few grasses mixed in.

Biological Soil Crust

Protect fragile biological soil crusts and "don't bust the crust!"

Large bighorn ram with curled horn stepping on black boulders with trees in background.

Wildlife

Discover some of the wild animals that live in Capitol Reef.

Large golden monoliths with blue sky in the background and rocks, plants, and trail in foreground.

Research in Capitol Reef

Scientists monitor many aspects of Capitol Reef, including air and water quality, invasive species, and landscape dynamics.

Pinkish red flowers on long green stems, with green leaves at the base.

Plants

Learn about some of Capitol Reef's plant species.

Small plant with three white flowers on the stem, with pale green stem and leaves, near black rock.

Species Lists

Find the species lists for plants and animals found in Capitol Reef.

Human hand framing large mountain lion track in the mud.

iNaturalist Capitol Reef

Check out the iNaturalist for Capitol Reef, and see plants and animals people are reporting in the park.

Large brown rock in cliff, with yellow arrow and some green vegetation.

Stromatolites

Stromatolites are very ancient fossils found in the Navajo Sandstone.

 

Capitol Reef National Park was set aside to protect a geologic feature--the Waterpocket Fold--an 87-mile long warp in the Earth's crust. Learn more about Capitol Reef's amazing geology.

Capitol Reef National Park contains nearly a quarter million acres in the slickrock country of Utah. Plant and animal life is diverse because of a variety of habitats such as pinyon-juniper, perennial streams, dry washes and rock cliffs.

Biological soil crusts--lumpy black crusts on the undisturbed ground--are literally holding the place in place! Learn more about soil crusts, and other interesting natural features and ecosystems of Capitol Reef.

Capitol Reef has some of the darkest night skies in the country, and was designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2015. As part of this designation, park staff perform ongoing monitoring of night sky conditions throughout the park.

At Capitol Reef and over a dozen other parks, the Northern Colorado Plateau Inventory and Monitoring Network conducts long-term inventory, monitoring, analysis, and reporting on key park resources to assess the condition of park ecosystems and develop a stronger scientific basis for stewardship and management of natural resources. At Capitol Reef, the network monitors air quality, climate, riparian and upland systems, invasive exotic plants, land surface phenology, landscape dynamics, landbirds, and water quality. The NCPN also maintains the official species lists for the park.

Fast Facts

  • Area of Park: ~381 square miles (243,921 acres; 98,711 hectares)
  • Highest Elevation: 8,960 ft (2731 m) in Upper Deep Creek drainage
  • Lowest Elevation: 3,880 ft (1183 m), where Halls Creek drainage exits the park
  • Average Warmest Month: July
  • Average Coldest Month: January
  • Average Wettest Month: August
  • Hottest Day Recorded: 104°F (40°C), June 26, 1970 and July 5, 1985
  • Coldest Day Recorded: -9°F (-23°C), January 7, 1971
  • Driest Year: 1973, 3.72 in (9.45 cm)
  • Wettest Year: 1957, 13.78 in (35.0 cm)
  • Total Species in Park: 1,252
  • Amphibian Species: 5
  • Bird Species: 239
  • Fish Species: 13
  • Mammal Species: 71
  • Reptile Species: 16
  • Vascular Plant Species: 909
  • Threatened, Endangered, or Candidate Species: 9


Utah sensitive species lists are available from the Utah Division of Wildlife and State Natural Heritage Program. Statistics are drawn from IRMA.nps.gov, the NPS's Northern Colorado Plateau Network, and the Western Regional Climate Center.

 

Explore Biodiversity


Have you ever taken a picture of a flower, or lizard, or an unusual lichen? You can keep track of the biodiversity you see when you are in a national park, or wherever you go, with iNaturalist. Check out Capitol Reef’s iNaturalist project. Learn more about how you can help document the various life forms in our national parks. Explore Biodiversity in national park sites.
 

Last updated: April 1, 2020

Contact the Park

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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