Capitol Reef National Park Sights

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Fruita Historic District Review

In 1880 Nels Johnson became the first homesteader in the Fremont River Valley, building his home near the confluence of Sulphur Creek and the Fremont River. Other Mormon settlers followed and established small farms and orchards near the confluence, creating the village of Junction. The orchards thrived, and in 1902 the settlement's name was changed to Fruita. The orchards are preserved and protected as a Rural Historic Landscape.

Blacksmith Shop. An old blacksmith shop is preserved as a shed full of tools, farm machinery, and harnesses dating from the late 1800s, along with Fruita's first tractor. You can listen to a recorded oral history from farmer Dewey Gifford. Scenic Dr., less than 1 mi south of visitor center, Capitol Reef National Park, UT, 84775.

Fruit Orchards. Planted by Mormon pioneer settlers and their descendents, Capitol Reef's fruit orchards are still lovingly maintained by the National Park Service. You can often see mule deer wandering here at dusk, making for great photographs. During harvest season, you can pick cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, and apples, and stop at a weigh-and-pay station to take your harvest home, or at least as far as the adjacent picnic grounds. Scenic Dr., less than 1 mile from visitor center, Capitol Reef National Park, UT, 84775.

Fruita Schoolhouse. Mormon settlers built the one-room log Fruita Schoolhouse in 1896. In addition to classes, Mormon church meetings, dances, town meetings, and other community functions also took place in this building. The school closed in 1941 because there were no longer enough students to attend. You can peek inside the windows and listen to a recording of a former teacher recalling what it was like to teach here in the 1930s. Hwy. 24, 1 mi from visitor center, Capitol Reef National Park, UT, 84775.

Gifford Farmhouse. Mormon settler Calvin Pendleton built the primitive Gifford Farmhouse in 1908 and lived here with his family for eight years, followed by the Jorgen Jorgenson family, who resided here from 1916 to 1928. In 1928 Jorgenson's son-in-law, Dewey Gifford, bought the homestead and settled in with his family for 41 years. The last residents of Fruita, the Giffords sold their home to the National Park Service in 1969. The house has been faithfully restored, with several of the rooms furnished with period furniture and housewares. The former kitchen of the house has been converted to a gift shop, the only place in the park to buy snacks (and jam). It's open daily from 8 to 6. Scenic Dr., less than 1 mi from visitor center, Capitol Reef National Park, UT, 84775. 435/425–3791.

Updated: 10-21-2013

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