The Grand Canyon + 2 other Spectacular National Parks in Arizona
Arizona National Parks
Considering that only twenty seven of our fifty states contain any national parks at all, the three states that each contain three different and amazing treasures set aside as national parks are indeed fortunate for those who live there or travel to those locales.
Arizona is one of those states. The other two which each contain three national parks are the states of Florida and Washington. Another one is being currently added to Texas which will soon also have that distinction of having 3 national parks within its borders.
Reading this post should broaden one's reference with regard to these special places if planning a trip to visit them or simply gaining more knowledge of what there is to do and see while in Arizona.
Petrified Forest National Park
Any artist would be hard pressed to find any colors that are not already resplendently displayed in the intriguing landscape of northeastern Arizona in the badlands area now known as the Petrified Forest.
- This is an archeological wonderland and a place that has captured a slice of earth's history going back some 200,000,000 years ago when this area was once a subtropical land filled with marshes and giant reptiles and amphibians.
- There were nearby volcanoes back then and upland forests where tall trees once grew. Rivers flowed towards a sea that no longer exists.
- Just like floods of today that carry much debris with them and redeposit things where they did not originate...over time many of the upland trees which died of various causes were swept up by floods and carried them to the swampy lowlands filled with water.
- The woody cells of the trees were gradually transformed into quartz and other minerals. This occurred over eons of time and more mineralized and fossilized trees were piled on top of one another. We now know that depth is around 1,000 feet or more! Of course the vast majority of them were broken up into chunks with only a few of the longer logs staying intact.
- This all predated the major changes in the topography due to our restless earth. The Rocky Mountains came into being, the inland seas were dried and what was once the tropical floodplain was also elevated and dried out.
- Suddenly the now the upper elevations of the petrified wood became exposed to the surface and some of the pieces of these jewel-like stones were used by the prehistoric Indian people...the Anasazi, Mogollon and Sinagua tribes...to erect structures to house them. The ruins such as the Agate House can be seen there today. Petroglyphs also stand as a testament to the ancient Indian tribes who once called this land their home.
- This is far from a lifeless land. All kinds of birds, rodents, snakes, coyotes, bobcats and other animals call this colorful landscape home. Most of them wait until dark to do their hunting and gathering and rest in their dens, burrows or other places during the hot and sun filled days.
It is unlawful to pick up any of these jewel toned pieces of petrified wood in the national park. There are plenty of stores selling pieces of petrified wood where it has been gathered outside of the park boundaries for visitors to take home as souvenirs. I did just that and have some pieces that were made into bookends and also one slice of an entire tree which is now displayed on an easel in our home. Some of the pieces for sale are made into jewelry.
Saguaro National Park
Anyone familiar with television westerns originating from the United States has probably seen these iconic cacti from the southwest. No other cactus has this exact form or shape nor gets this tall when allowed to grow and mature.
The Sonoran desert of southern Arizona near the sun kissed city of Tucson is where you will find these cactus and some can also be viewed south of our U.S. border into Mexico.
Roads that go through the National Park allow one to see the saguaro cactus from various viewpoints along with the other vegetation that also graces this desert landscape framed with the nearby Tucson Mountain district and the Rincon Mountain district.
If exploring the mountain districts of the Saguaro National Park one will encounter different plant life than just that found on the desert floor even including pine and conifer forests in the higher Rincon mountain range which gets up to elevations of 8,666 feet above sea level.
So for people allowing enough time for hiking and exploring the plant and animal life in this national park there are diverse things to see and enjoy.
One must be prepared for the heat of the desert and dress accordingly using protective measures such as using sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, good hiking shoes and be sure to carry enough water. Temperatures can easily exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the Sonoran Desert floor.
Of course if hiking in the mountains, temperatures will vary according to the time of day and year but generally be cooler than the lower elevations.
Animals that might be spotted include everything from Roadrunners and Gila monsters, etc. on the desert floor to deer and even black bears in the higher elevations.
Grand Canyon National Park
Are there any superlative descriptions left that have not already been used in describing the Grand Canyon? I seriously doubt it. After all it is still considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
This living river that continually passes through the mile deep canyon tumbling over rocks in its path and twisting through deep gorges with episodes of relatively calm as well as those of frothing and roaring white water teems with life.
For those intrepid travelers who brave the Colorado River on rafting trips through the Grand Canyon, they have the opportunity of seeing some of the spectacular side canyons where many types of birds, fish, and other animals who make the canyon their home are found.
The breathtaking waterfalls in the canyon as well as the wondrous architecture of the canyon walls can be more intimately appreciated as one looks up at the rising cliffs looking skyward. Of course the vast majority of people from around the world who visit the Grand Canyon never see it from the bottom looking up but rather the reverse. They stare in wonder at the stunning and overwhelmingly beautiful site by looking down at it where every moment of the time of day or fleeting cloud or season of the year changes its appearance.
Capturing the nuances of the Grand Canyon with film or the newer digital forms of photography has become a lifelong pursuit for many photographers. Of course the best lens of all is the human eye. Once viewed in person the Grand Canyon becomes seared into one's memory and becomes an experience never forgotten.
Locations of the Three National Parks in Arizona
© 2013 Peggy Woods