Spring on the Notom RoadThe Notom Road takes visitors deep into the southern area of Capitol Reef National Park, in summer it can be a hot dusty drive rewarded by impressive craggy ridges and a good supply of slot canyons. For a few short weeks in the spring however the views are joined by a variety of flowering delights. The rising sun sets the red rocks of the Waterpocket Fold glowing. The eastern side of the ‘Reef’ is penetrated by numerous slot canyons cutting into the cliffs, Burro and Cottonwood Washes and Sheet’s Gulch for instance. Each is a mile or two hike from the road up the wash before entering the narrow confines of the slot itself.
Giant clumps of Mule’s Ear grow in the shelter of the twisted shapes just off the road.As you drive down into the Waterpocket Fold the road is lined by the sharply tilted remnants of the fold, many different geologic layers are present providing a wide variety of rocky materials. The type of flowers changes along with the geology, Prince’s Plume and Showy Four O’Clock like the steep surfaces. Further south climbing to the top of the ridges next to the road provides fine views of the reef to the north. The road surface changes from dusty dirt and gravel at the north end to sandy at the south, sometimes deep in patches later in the summer. In between are sections of bentonite which become very slippery with the slightest rain. Many more varieties of flowers can be found along the road, Indian Paintbrush, daisies, blue and red Penstemon, fields of rice grass and sometime Sego lilies, the state flower of Utah. And of course many cacti are present along with lizards, coyotes and rabbits. Normally the Notom Road can be driven in almost any vehicle but it’s always best to check at the Information Center or the National Park Visitor Center to find the condition of the road, particularly if there has recently been wet weather. Never enter a slot canyon if rain is forecast or if clouds are building anywhere in sight, flash floods occur regularly in Capitol Reef Country.