Petrified Forest

I have to thank Arizona Highways for their issue on the Petrified Forest National park. Having lived in Arizona, and only an hour and a half away, I have not until now visited the National Park. I have driven by it a number of times, but this last spring break I made the decision to stop for the evening and following morning to see what it is all about. We arrived just before closing, and sunset which is typically the best time to do landscape photography. They close at sunset and as there is no camping within the park we couldn't dally. From the main entrance and visitor's center you don't get a glimpse of any petrified wood right away. Instead you follow the road along a rim with pull-outs and wide views of the Painted Desert.

Painted Desert Sunset

Petrified Forest is one of the few parks where you can take your pets off the road and onto their trails. We did just that as we circled one of the Ancient Puebloan ruin sites. Not much to see there except some remnants of a few foundations. Anxious to keep moving before the sun is completely down we made our way to a relic of Old Route 66, a 1932 Studebaker. The exhibit was installed in 2006, which includes the donated antique vehicle positioned along the old Route 66 road bed. From the pull-out you can see remnants of some telephone poles and make out where the road once carried cars from Chicago to LA.

1932 Studebaker

Not much to see after dark, so we headed out of the park, and slept in a free campground adjacent to one of the rock shops. Free also means no facilities. If you go be prepared to "hold it" until the park opens the next morning at 7. The visitor's center is always a treat, and full of interesting fossils, petrified wood samples and information on the creation of the petrified wood from the Pliocene era. Basically the forest pre-dates the ancient dinosaurs at about 200 million years old.

Petrified Trees Fractured

The area was once a large rain forest on the ancient land mass Pangaea, at that time located approximately along the equator. Volcanic ash layered on top of the fallen trees, then covered by an ancient river system and its sediment preserved the wood by turning it into a quartz like substance. Erosion eventually uncovered the trees. Shifting sand and earth cracked the trees much like a broken piece of chalk would if dropped. This enables you to see a cross-section of the crystalline wood.

Petrified Wood Cross Section

The variety of colors are produced by impurities in the quartz, such as iron, carbon, and manganese. Large cracks in the wood developed and encased large jewel-like crystals of clear quartz, purple amethyst, yellow citrine, and smoky quartz. If you have any interest in history, geology, or dinosaurs, then this park is a jewel in and of itself. As far as I know it is one of the most unique and geologically interesting parks on earth. If you ever find yourself around Holbrook, Arizona take the time to discover Petrified Forest National Park.

Ancient Araucaroid Petrified Tree


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