The rugged western escarpment of Capitol Reef tells the essentials of a complex story. Rock bands of differing thickness, colors, and textures lay one upon another like layers of a cake. The rocks of Capitol Reef were once sediments (silt, sand, clay, and gravel) laid down in many different environments during the past. Younger rocks lie on top of older rocks.
Notice the tilting of the rock layers? Intense crustal pressure reactivated a fault buried deep beneath the sedimentary rock layers of the Colorado Plateau. In response, the overlying sedimentary rock layers folded or bent into a one-sided slope called a monocline. This 100 mile (161 km) long (but relatively narrow) feature was uplifted approximately 6,800 feet (2,000 m) higher on the west side. It is named the Waterpocket Fold because of the numerous small potholes, tanks, or "pockets" that hold rainwater and snowmelt.
The Waterpocket Fold has been beset by erosion since its creation. Erosion includes weathering, the transportation of material, chemical wearing, and the effects of gravity. Frost, plant roots, internal water seepage, and flash floods have all played a part in the drama of Capitol Reef. Deposition, uplift, and erosion are the major geologic processes which created this landscape.