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A Wrinkle on Earth

By Linda Tancs

The Waterpocket Fold is a geologic wrinkle on the earth extending almost 100 miles. It formed between 50 and 70 million years ago when a major mountain building event in western North America (the Laramide orogeny) reactivated an ancient buried fault in the region, causing the west side to shift upwards relative to the east side. This geologic wonder is the centerpiece of Capitol Reef National Park in the heart of Utah’s red rock country. Abounding with cliffs, bridges, domes and canyons, the park is also a refuge of pristine dark night skies of the highest quality, garnering it “Gold Tier” status by the International Dark-Sky Association. The most scenic portion of the Waterpocket Fold, found near the Fremont River, is known as Capitol Reef: capitol for the white domes of Navajo sandstone that resemble state capitol building domes, and reef for the rocky cliffs which are a barrier to travel, like a coral reef.

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