Written by mikehanneman on 17 Jan, 2006
In June of 2004, my son and I were set to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon but had a day to take in some sights in Arizona. I suggested the Petrified Forest in eastern Arizona, just off Interstate 40. We had spent…Read More
In June of 2004, my son and I were set to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon but had a day to take in some sights in Arizona. I suggested the Petrified Forest in eastern Arizona, just off Interstate 40.
We had spent the night in Flagstaff and started our journey early in the day. We had a bit of a hard time trying to get into the south end of the park from Holbrook. Eventually we hit the south side of the park and visited a gift shop. There were a lot of neat and expensive pieces of petrified wood. I liked the black ones, which represent about 10% of all petrified wood.
Scott and I headed into the park. We were about a mile from the entrance station when I decided to pull off the road. We went into a field of sand, dirt, and petrified wood. I was changing my shoes when the ranger came by and asked if we needed any help. I always try to visit with the rangers because they are interesting and can supply good information about the parks. We spoke for about 10 minutes about his history with the Park Service. He said that during the 9/11 crisis, he was called up to help with our nation's security on the East Coast. The ranger also mentioned he was at the Grand Canyon for about 4 or 5 years before being transferred to the Petrified Forest. When he was at the Grand Canyon, he said that his wife hated it and left him. We spotted his new wife on horseback out in the desert, riding with some scientists, through his binoculars.
Scott and I continued to go into the field and explore the petrified pieces of wood on the desert floor: big pieces, little pieces, fragmented pieces, and parts of bigger logs. After about 20 minutes, we headed up to the Rainbow Forest Museum, where the Giant Logs are. BIG LOGS! I enjoyed the map of the United States that showed a piece of petrified wood on each state in our country! There wasn't too much to see around the Crystal Forest. The sign said that there had been a lot of theft with the Crystal Forest. I also like the way the Tepees looked, with distinct white layers of sandstone with caps of clay. The darker layers are caused by higher carbon content and the red colors are from iron-stained siltstone and iron oxide. We saw a prong-horned antelope in the middle of the park all by itself. It must of been a stray, I guess. There are a lot of fossils in the park from 225 million years ago, the Late Trassic Period.
We didn't have much time, so we kept moving out of the park. On the north end is the Painted Desert. You could see for a long ways on this clear day! The ranger said that he helps load up pack mules and guides scientists into the Painted Desert for research.
I recommend the Petrified Forest for people and their families. It is educational and provides an unusual side trip off Interstate 40 in eastern Arizona.
Written by Taylor252 on 30 Aug, 2003
From Flagstaff we went east on I-40 to exit 285. A short drive on Rt. 180 brought us to the south entrance of the Petrified Forest. Right up front, I will recommend that you use this entrance rather than the…Read More
From Flagstaff we went east on I-40 to exit 285. A short drive on Rt. 180 brought us to the south entrance of the Petrified Forest. Right up front, I will recommend that you use this entrance rather than the one further east off I-40. I believe this entrance is considered sort of backwards for going through the park. Most of the brochures etc start from the other end. However, it really makes no difference whether you see Giant Logs first, or the Painted Desert -- but you might have better traffic starting from the south! Using this entrance also takes you past private rock shops where you can obtain significantly less expensive petrified wood souvenirs. The products sold in these shops come from private lands around the park. It is extraordinarily against the law to take any petrified wood out of the park, yet thoughtless or uncaring people remove up to 12 tons of rock each year! That would be each visitor taking a piece about the size of a half dollar.
As we entered the park, we picked up a self guided tour, a map, and visited the souvenir shops to check the prices and get a coke. The park is 93,533 acres and contains unique archeological, paleontological, and geological formations. There is a lot to see and it can take a while even if the park is as empty as it was on our visit. (we saw another car about every 5 minutes). We were told that in the summer, cars can be lined up and moving less than 5 mph. The total length of the road is approx. 28 miles. If you do the math, in summer, time spent in the car . . . well . . . we recommend going in winter if you can! Otherwise, plan to arrive very early before the majority of folks get there. Also, the park averages a little over a mile high in elevation. That can bother some people so check it out.
The trees that litter the ground now as petrified wood originally grew in the Triassic Period (200-250 million years ago) and were all conifers (i.e. evergreens). They grew in a tropical rain forest at the time. For whatever reason, the trees fell down and were washed out on to the flood plain. At the same time volcanoes in the area were putting a lot of ash into the air. The ash mixed with the mud sediments covering the trees. Then, as the rain washed the silica out of the ash, it seeped down into the logs, slowly replacing the organic material with quartz or agate. And we end up with petrified wood! There are actually different kinds of petrified wood distinguished by three conditions. First there are three species of extinct trees that make up the logs. Second, some of the silica was colored by other minerals to get the rainbow of colors you find in the rocks. And third, sometimes the petrification process was so good that cellular structure was duplicated and/or sometimes bark can be distinguished. All of these things determine the value of a piece of petrified wood. So, if you want to buy enough to make a table, do your homework and plan ahead. It will be very heavy!