Petrified Forest
New Mexico
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Trips : Arizona : Petrified Forest National Park

Park History
The name of the Petrified Forest National Park describes the park very well. Several hundred million years ago the area was a large swamp, fed by a number of rivers. If a tree fell into one of these rivers it would eventually make its way down to the swamp, where it was likely to sink and become buried in mud. Over years and years the organic compounds of the tree were replaced by rock, generally silica or quartz.

Eventually the swamp disappeared as the land rose. The former swamp bed became exposed to wind and rain and — most important — time. Over time the trees that had been converted to rock became exposed on the surface once more.

The initial visitors to the area were American Indians, first as nomadic tribes and later as settlers. Some of the later inhabitants built a pueblo out of pieces of petrified wood that still stands today. There are also areas with a wealth of petroglyphs. We can't read or understand these signs but someday we may find the Rosetta Stone that will allow us to unlock their mystery.

The area was rediscovered by modern American explorers in the mid-1800s. By the early 1900s the people that had settled in the area realized that they had a national treasure on their hands, and in 1906 the Petrified Forest National Monument was formed. More land was added and in 1962 the national monument was promoted to a national park. The park is conveniently located on interstate 40, and is well worth the time to experience if you find yourself in the area.

"Large Cracked Log"
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Big Picture

Long Logs Trail
This is a sample of what you might see on a stroll through the forest. Squirrels and woodpeckers would have a hard time in this forest... especially the woodpeckers. They would need chisels or jackhammers to work on these trees!

This log is actually quite large. There is nothing in the picture that really shows the scale, but this log is over three feet in diameter. There are larger logs in the park as well. The "long log" found in one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the park measures 116 feet. One of the largest logs has been nick-named "Old Faithful" and is 9' 9" in diameter! That's a lot of wood. Nobody has ever picked it up, but they estimate that it weighs 44 tons.

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"Field of Rocks"
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Big Picture

This is another picture from the Long Logs hike. Some of these trees must have been truly majestic when they were alive. They were ancestors of the tall fir trees that we see today. Based on the fossil record we know that they could have been from 150 to 170 feet tall when they were alive.

Because of the concentration of logs in the area of this hike, geologists suggest that it must have been an area where log jams frequently occurred.

Seeing the plentiful samples of petrified wood has apparently encouraged visitors to take "just one piece" as a souvenir. The park service estimates that 12 tons of petrified wood is removed each year, and has instituted a zero tolerance policy. If you are tempted to pick up a chip — no matter how small — be aware that you might be subject to a fine starting at $275 and possibly arrest. It's not worth it. Besides, you can legally get samples of petrified wood from several stores outside of the park.

So go, enjoy the sites, soak up the history, and have a good time. But leave the chips where they have fallen.

We'll have some more pictures of the area up later on, including some of the fascinating formations from the Painted Desert and a tour of an ancient Indian settlement. Think your bedroom is too small? You should see how they lived thousands of years ago. On the other hand, they weren't burdened by trying to figure out where to plug in their television (or computer) either. If you want to learn more about the park, you can sign up for our subscription service or use the link below to visit the national park service site. Thanks for stopping by.

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Park Link
Petrified Forest National Park
National Park Service Web Site

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