Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona: Amazing Desert Images!
National Park in Arizona
Having visited the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona on two different occasions, I am the proud owner of some amazing desert pictures and of course the petrified wood is the star attraction.
The first visit was with my mother and niece and we enjoyed the views immensely but did not do much hiking. The colors and hues of the petrified wood are so varied and shine in the sunlight like rich jewels. The stark desert is a contrast to those multicolored gems of wood turned to stone.
With my German girl friend accompanying me the second time of visiting the Arizona desert, and in particular the Petrified Forest, more hiking was in order.
The majority of the pictures included in this post will be from that second visit. This was part of our planned trip to see ten National Parks on our wonderful vacation that year. We also sneaked in some State Parks as a bonus when we had the time.
Discovered in 1981 were fossils dating back to the Triassic Period some 225 million years ago.
Much research is continuing to be done and evidence of small dinosaurs as well as crocodile-like reptiles and big amphibians who would have eaten fish are being discovered in this area in addition to the plant life that would have existed at the time.
At the Rainbow Forest Museum casts of the bones of a small dinosaur nicknamed Gertie are displayed for all to see.
Located 2 miles north of the south entrance to the Petrified Forest National Park, 19 miles south of Holbrook off of highway 18, you will find the Rainbow Forest Museum.
Also contained within the museum location is all kinds of visitor information including a 20 minute orientation film that runs on the half hour. Many fossil exhibits are on display and you can acquire back-country permits for hiking and backpacking there. Public restrooms are available as well as some limited amounts of food.
Protecting This Land
Around the year 1900 calls for protecting this unusual and beautiful landscape began to be loudly heard. Tourists were removing bits and pieces of the beautifully colored petrified wood as souvenirs and it became apparent that if this continued the landscape would be forever changed for future generations.
So in order to preserve this land in 1906 selected areas of what was to become this park first started out as the Petrified Forest National Monument. Often this is the first step towards becoming a national park.
2,500 more acres (1,000 hectares) were added to the monument in 1932.
National Park status was gained in 1962 and in 1970 an additional 50,000 acres (20,250 hectares) was set aside as wilderness area.
The total area of this Petrified Forest National Park is now 93,533 acres or 37,881 hectares.
It is illegal to remove any pieces of petrified wood within the park boundaries.
Plenty of it can be found outside the Petrified Forest National Park and commercial interests have already collected and polished much of it up and offer it for sale.
One can purchase inexpensive small brightly colored pebbles or more expensive larger pieces made into bookends or many other assorted objects in gift shops that are allowed to sell the petrified wood.
When I was there with my girlfriend I purchased a ring, some bookends and a beautiful slab of a full diameter cross cut piece of a petrified log that I have on display in our home.
Whether one decides to purchase any souvenirs, just seeing the creative objects made from the wood that has been turned into colorful stone is a treat.
These look almost identical to the bookends that I purchased outside of the Petrified Forest National Park. They add such beauty to our bookshelves!
Some Geology of This Area
This part of the country which is now about 5,400 feet in elevation and high and dry has an interesting geologic history.
It started out as a floodplain where tall pine-like trees flourished in the south. This was also the time when the dinosaurs and other animals now being discovered as fossils roamed this area.
The trees eventually fell and were moved by the streams into the floodplain where they became covered with volcanic ash, mud and silt.
What happened next was that silica deposits gradually infiltrated the wooden tissues of the logs and over time the silica was replaced with quartz. This preserved the logs and they became the petrified wood we see today.
Of course this did not happen overnight, but over a long period of time...millions of years in fact.
Much later in the course of time the land became uplifted. This exposed the fossilized plants and animals to the wind and water and due to the stresses on those long petrified logs most of them split and became broken.
Some of the long logs lie in pieces next to one another giving one an idea of how tall they were at one time when they stood upright.
What is viewed today in the Petrified Forest National Park is only a fraction of what is truly there. At a depth of some 300 feet fossilized remains are to be found. The forces of erosion over time will continue to bring more of these petrified remains towards the surface.
Human residence within the park has been recorded for more than 2,000 years.
The dating of rubble, potsherds and petroglyphs seems to have ended after the year 1400.
Prior to that there is definite proof of occupation between the years 1100 to 1200 and between 1300 to 1400.
Titled Newspaper Rock, this is only one of many paintings left on the petrified wood by Indians who would have lived in this area.
Many such petroglyphs exist throughout the park confines.
From the Rainbow Forest Museum one can follow a trail that takes one through the Giant Logs and to the site of the Agate House.
This dates back to the Pueblo III period and Indians during that time would have collected chunks of petrified wood building lodging for themselves.
The so-called Agate House was partially restored in the 1930s so that one can visualize what a pueblo house would have looked like built out of the colorful petrified wood.
Many other minerals some of which include iron, manganese and carbon comprise these polychromatic pieces of stone. It is an amazing site seeing them piled together as I am sure you will agree when you view the pictures that were taken when we visited that spot on the trail.
I snapped a photo of a sign which aptly described this Badland area of the national park. It tells the following story:
"This moonscape of hills and gullies is called badlands.
The Blue Mesa badlands are made up of rock known as the Chinle Formation, which extends from Texas, across northern Arizona, and into Utah. The rock is mostly fine-grained clay and siltstone, but also contains sandstone and conglomerate. Bentonite, a major ingredient, swells and becomes sticky when wet and cracks and shrinks when it dries.
The constant shrinking and swelling of the surface gives the Chinle its elephant-skin texture.
Petrified logs appear to be perched on pedestals of the softer clays. Once the clay erodes under the logs, they will topple down the hillside."
Walking through this hot and dry area, one should definitely think of wearing sunscreen, appropriate clothing with comfortable shoes, sunglasses and make sure that one is carrying enough water to stay hydrated. Actually these recommendations are appropriate for all of this Petrified Forest National Park.
On the back of this oversized vintage postcard purchased by my grandparents on their travels many years ago, it reads:
PETRIFIED FOREST of ARIZONA
Rich and strange in color and shapes these petrified trees carry one's imagination back to prehistoric days when dinosaurs roamed northern Arizona.
PETLY Color Card - PUBLISHED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PETLEY STUDIOS, PHOENIX, ARIZONA
KODACHROME BY JERRY McLAIN
The Petrified Forest National Park is a part of the Painted Desert. That has been written about in a separate post and I will leave a link to it below.
Suffice it to say that this part of the country is uniquely beautiful.
There are 28 miles of a scenic drive throughout the Petrified Forest National Park.
Also provided are many pull outs where one can overlook different areas within the park from one's vehicle. Sweeping vistas of the different sites can be viewed from these parking areas. Because of this even handicapped people can enjoy seeing the Petrified Forest.
Be sure and stop at the visitor centers...one at each end of the park...for much more information including current weather forecasts, maps and for those heartier souls, permits to camp and hike in the wilderness areas.
Petrified wood is naturally found in other areas around the country and world, but being able to enjoy such a large collection of it in one concentrated area makes the Petrified Forest National Park in the Painted Desert of Arizona unique and well worth a trip.
Petrified Forest National Park
Would you like to visit the Petrified Forest National Park?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2009 Peggy Woods