Have you ever taken so many pictures that your battery runs out? Well, I have now. Everywhere you look in this park you take tons of pictures. Theirs just no getting around it. Each and every piece of petrified wood is unique and different. It’s was so hard to choose the few pictures that I have posted here. The Painted Desert is also part of this federal park. Those pictures will have to be split off into another blog entry. Just so we don’t run too long. That’s going to be hard for this one though, sorry.
So what looks like rocks and boulders is actually petrified wood. What is petrified wood and how does it become petrified? OK…here’s your history lesson for the day. This was taken out of the Petrified Forest brochure. Their should be a lot more information online at this link.
The high, dry grassland in this area was once a vast floodplain crossed by many streams. Tall, stately conifer trees grew along the banks. Crocodile-like reptiles, giant amphibians, and small dinosaurs lived among a variety of ferns, cycads, and other plants and animals known only as fossils today. The trees, Araucarioxylon, Woodworthia, Schilderia, and others, fell, and swollen streams washed them into adjacent floodplains. A mix of silt, mud, and volcanic ash buried the logs.
This sediment cut off oxygen and slowed the logs’ decay. Silica-laden groundwater seeped through the logs and replaced the original wood tissues with silica deposits. Eventually the silica crystallized into quartz, and the logs were preserved as petrified wood.
Our first stop among the forest was the Crystal Forest and Trail. It’s a nice .8 mile trail around, what to me, looks like the largest area of petrified wood. The various colors in the wood come from minerals in the silica-saturated waters. Iron, carbon, manganese, cobalt and chromium which produce the patterns and blends of yellow, red, black, pink, blue, brown and white.
Petrified wood is heavy, weighing nearly 200 lbs per cubic foot. It’s hardness registers a 7 out of a 10 point scale. The only way to cut a petrified log is with an oil-cooled diamond saw.
It’s beautiful and eerie at the same time. These petrified logs and trees just laying about. For millions of years. Moving with the earth and getting washed around, until settling here. Entombed into this ground forever.
It wasn’t until 1906 when President Theodore Roosevelt set aside selected stands of the petrified trees as Petrified Forest National Monument. In 1932 53,200 more acres of the Painted Desert were bought and added to the monument. It wasn’t until 1962 that Congress designated the monument a National Park.
There is so much more to this park than the petrified forest. There’s great hiking trails through the forest, many places to stop and see ancient petroglyphs and a Puerco Pueblo that was occupied twice, from 1100-1200 and 1300-1400. Spanish explorers to the area found no one here when they arrived in 1540. Alas, I have no pictures of that pueblo or the petroglyphs. My battery ran out. Note to self…make sure battery has a full charge when exploring.