The Fremont people lived along the river as early as A.D. 700, staying until about 1300. Primarily hunters and gatherers, the Fremonts also grew corn, beans, and squash to supplement their diet. Their dwellings were pit houses, which were dug into the ground; the remains of one can be seen from the Hickman Bridge Trail. Many Fremont petroglyphs (images carved into rock) and pictographs (images painted on rock) are visible on the canyon walls. If we could understand them, they might tell us why these early Americans left the area, a puzzle that continues to baffle archaeologists. The most easily accessible site is 1 1/2 miles east of the visitor center along Utah 24. There is a sign near the parking area, and a path leads to the petroglyph panels, which contain some of the most interesting images in the park.

Prospectors and other travelers passed through the Capitol Gorge section in the late 1800s, leaving their names on the Pioneer Register, reached on a 2-mile round-trip walk.

Mormon pioneers established the community of Junction -- later named Fruita -- in 1880. Now a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the orchards those settlers planted continue to flourish, tended by park workers who invite you to sample the fruits of their labor. Nearby is a historic blacksmith shop. The tiny Fruita Schoolhouse, built in 1896, was a church, social hall, and meeting hall in addition to a one-room schoolhouse. The school closed in 1941 and was restored in 1984. It's furnished with old wood-and-wrought-iron desks, a wood stove, a chalkboard, and textbooks. A hand bell used to call students to class still rests on the corner of the teacher's desk.

Also in the Fruita district, the Gifford Farmhouse, built in 1908, is typical of rural Utah farmhouses of the early 1900s. Renovated and furnished by the Capitol Reef Natural History Association, it's off the Scenic Drive about 1 mile south of the visitor center, and is open from April through September. The former kitchen is a gift shop, selling reproductions of the household tools, toys, and utensils used by Mormon pioneers, crafts, jams and jellies, dried fruits, postcards, and books.

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