Friday, July 31, 2015

Photo Friday: Petrified Forest National Park

In June, we did a road trip out to Colorado, then back to LA via Mesa Verde and northern Arizona. I'll get to Mesa Verde eventually, and to Sequoia NP where we spent 5 days backpacking, but first I want to share a place many haven't heard of: Petrified Forest National Park (Note: it is NOT, as I kept saying, Petrified National Forest. Though that might be interesting too). It's a ways east of Flagstaff, and is bisected by I40.

The Petrified Forest was made a National Monument in 1906, and (to my surprise--I didn't think it was a Park when I was a kid)--became a National Park in 1962. People recognized early on that it was something special, and something that without protection would quickly be destroyed. Even today, cretins steal tons of petrified wood from the Park each year. I imagine that without protection, there wouldn't be a log left. But if anyone shows you a cool bit of fossil and says they found it in the park, give them a dope-slap, okay?

Enough ranting. What is the park all about? Petrified Forest is a stretch of Arizona desert that is littered with (wait for it!) petrified (fossilized) wood. Logs of it. Sometime in the late Triassic (say 200-220 million years ago), a lot of trees were washed downstream into this area. Then they were covered with volcanic ash, and the silica in that ash gradually replaced the organic matter in the trees, creating quartz crystals. Different minerals lend the "wood" amazing colors. The Park Service web page answers a lot of questions about the process and the wood, so I won't go into detail here.

Our visit was, of necessity (due to our travel constraints) at midday, which isn't great for photos. The Painted Desert in the northern part of the park, in particular, suffered from the treatment. But I managed to get a few good shots of the logs.

A bit of the Painted Desert, at about 100* F, noonish. Baked to death.
In the southern part of the park, we started seeing logs lying about on the highly eroded slopes of the Chinle Formation, a sort of mudstone that grows nothing because it is constantly eroding.
Colorful stone trees.
Some trees were BIG. This is the base of a tree, maybe nearly 10' across.
Lying around looking ready for the fireplace.
Another log and the Visitors' Center.
Pretty sure that's a fossilized knothole.
Close up to the quartz.
More colors of the logs.
Just a little glimpse of the amazing stuff nature does. If you are in the neighborhood, stop and take a look. I hadn't been since I was about 5, and that was a shame.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2015


  1. The colors are amazing on these pieces! Thanks for sharing! It's sad that people have taken so much over the years. It would indeed be barren if it wasn't protected by the park service.

    1. Thanks! I'd love to be there sometime at low light, though the (sadly necessary) limited hours of opening make that tough.

      I remain amazed and saddened by the people who will ruin the amazing resources our country has, from parks to libraries. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!


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