Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona is definitely a drive-through park. The road stretches twenty-seven miles north-to-south through the forest with numerous pullouts and side roads for viewing the sights.
Calling it a forest gave us the wrong impression. The petrified trees are all laying on the ground, left there about 225 million years ago during the Late Triassic period.
When we heard forest, we expected large groups of upright trees. We felt kind of dumb.
Yes, those are real buildings behind those huge logs!
All those million years ago this area was an upright tropical forest. Fallen trees accumulated in river beds and were buried by volcanic ash. The silica in the ash dissolved and seeped into the logs, forming beautiful quartz crystals.
Other minerals combined with the silica to create the rainbow of colors in the petrified wood.
Buried for eons, it wasn’t until about sixty million years ago that the Colorado Plateau began to be pushed up, forming mountains and allowing erosion to expose this ancient lumber.
At our first stop, The Crystal Forest, a walking trail led us through hundreds of downed ancient trees, giving us our first up close look at the petrified wood.
It’s amazing how the rock has retained the exact look of the trees. The grain, rings and even the bark are perfectly preserved in stone.
Our next pull off was Blue Mesa. From the top of the mesa we got a great view of valleys filled with petrified logs. Many of them have rolled down and gathered in the canyons, while others are still being exposed by erosion that continues today.
As we continued north, we crossed I-40 and the Route 66 marker. When the old highway came through here back in the twenties, tourists began discovering this unique fossilized collection.
Unfortunately, they also began removing a lot of the specimens. The area was preserved as a national monument by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906, but it wasn’t until the depression that Civilian Conservation Corps workers built infrastructure for the park and began to really protect it. In 1962, the monument became Petrified Forest National Park.
Still, even with fines as high as $325,000.00 an estimated twelve tons of artifacts disappear from the park each year.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com