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Celebrating our two-lane highways of yesteryear…And the joys of driving them today!

Historic Capital Gorge Road


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Roadhound, you continue to bring back pleasant memories! We hiked the Capital Gorge Road during our '93 Capital Reef/other Utah NPS sites visit. Absolutely wonderful and easy hike.

Now, to your question: I have two old Utah road maps. Surprisingly, the road is signed as Utah Route 24 even on the older one, which is a mid-to-late 1930s (no date on it) Conoco map. The road is shown as an unimproved dirt road and carries the warning: "Unimproved road--carry water". It is amazing how wild and virtually roadless the entire southeast quarter of Utah was back then. There were zero miles of pavement south of US 50 and east of US 89 at that time.

Capital Reef was not yet an NPS site either. The area is simply marked as "Wayne (county) Wonderland".

The newer map is a Chevron map from the early-to-mid 1950s (again, no specific date). the road, and all of Utah 24, had by that time been slightly upgraded to an "improved" graded dirt or gravel road. Capital Reef has by this time been protected, but it is a much smaller area than today and is a National Monument rather than a National Park. If I recall, it and Arches were 'promoted' from Monument to Park status in the 1970s.

I really enjoy your posts!

Edited by mga707
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First, I enjoyed the blog and photos, as always.


I have not had the time to research your question about maps mentioning the old road through Capitol Wash, but I did look at a couple of old atlases this morning to see what I could see. (Note spelling of Capitol)


I have scanned a section from the 1926 Clason's Touring Atlas. Note that there is a road between Notom on the east and Fruita on the west. Given the terrain, that must have been the road in question, even though it is not accurately displayed. The circa 1933-34 Gallup's map shows the road more accurately.







A 1918 story in “The Young Woman's Journal,” Volume 29 (thanks as always to Google Books!!) states you can take a car as far as Fruita, but you better use a team to get to Notom. Notom had about 50 – 60 people in the early years of the last century. The story goes on to note that the main county road bends east through Capitol Wash....confirmation that this was the main road in 1918 going between Fruita, Notom, and Caineville.


A few years back Sheila and I walked the wash. We stayed at Torrey and I recall a neat bookstore there. Your post prompted me to pull out the photos, done in 2003. I found one of Sheila (below) holding up the rock wall in the wash.


Torrey as well as Capitol Reef are places we hope to visit again.





Keep the Show on the Road!



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Thanks mga707, Keep,

The maps are very interesting in that both of them make Capitol Gorge look like just another innocent stretch of unpaved road. It probably didn't see much cross country traffic, at least in 1926, since there are no roads east of Hanksville. The next mystery is what happened to the 13 mile road between Notom and Grover that is on the 1926 Clason map but not on the 33-34 Gallup's map?


I'm glad I could bring back pleasant memories for both of you. Going to that area brought back memories for me as well. In 1989 my wife and I were driving from California to Colorado Springs for my brothers graduation from the USAFA. We started the second day of our trip in Las Vegas and saw both Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks that day before ending up at the Aquarius Motel in Bicknell. We had gassed up in St. George and and I expected that we could get gas somewhere on Hwy 12 between Bryce and Torrey. However, since it was a Sunday evening in Mormon Country, every gas station along the way was closed. Long story short, I drove highway 12 switching between being mesmorized by the late afternoon sun hitting the scenery outside the car and being fixated on a gas gauge getting closer to 'E' with every mile. I put 19.8 gallons into a 20 gallon tank when we got to Torrey. The next day we hiked for a few hours in Capitol Reef before going to Arches and Canyonlands that same day. Yeah, we wanted to see as much as we could in the little time we had.


I have one more posting to make from my summer trip which I hope to finish by next week. I doubt the next one will bring back any memories good, bad, or otherwise unless you like to travel to really obscure geological formations.



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