Petrified Forest and Painted Desert

Trip Start May 09, 2009
Trip End May 27, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Adding to our ever-increasing list of national parks that we have visited on this trip, is the Petrified Forest National Park,in northeast Arizona.  The park consists of two large areas: 1) the northern area encompasses part of the Painted Desert, the multi-hued badlands of the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation; 2) the southern area includes colorful terrain, concentrations of petrified wood and several petroglyph sites.  A portion of the old historic Route 66 runs through here, though the road is no longer navigable,

We started at the northern end of the park in the gorgeous Painted Desert badlands.  The colors of the rock here are amazing.  We especially enjoyed the blue/purple colors evident in the badland formations found along the Blue Mesa trail.  It was here that we got our first glimpse of the petrified (fossilized) wood that we would see more of in the southern end of the park.

Although petrified wood is found elsewhere in the US and around the world, the Petrified Forest National Park contains some of the largest and best-preserved petrified wood sites in the world.  However, the petrified wood here is not as voluminous at it once was, due to human action.  In the 1890s, people began to dynamite the pieces of petrified wood to look for gems inside. The rapidly diminishing store of petrified wood alarmed the leaders of Arizona at the time and thus the impetus for creating a park came about.  Theft continues to be a problem despite the fact that nearby vendors sell wood collected legally from private land.  An estimated 12 tons of the fossil wood is stolen from the park each year.  In fact, while we were there, a couple of women were caught with bags of petrified wood in their car.

Our last sight in the park, was the Agate House, an ancient pueblo built of petrified wood and mud, that was partially restored in the 1930s. 

For our geologist friends (attention Ryan and Mariah!!) and even those not scientifically-inclined, this park is a must-see.

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