May 11, 2015 Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, Arizona

We left Winslow and made the short drive to Holbrook, Arizona.  We had heard about a gift shop right near the South entrance to Petrified Forest National Park that had free dry camping or electric RV sites for $10.00.  We got there early enough to get one of their electric sites and after getting the RV all settled we drove our car into the park.IMG_20150511_134640

During the Triassic period over 200 million years ago, northeastern Arizona was located near the equator where the country of Panama is today.  This region was located on the southwestern edge of the earth’s largest existing land mass, Pangaea.  The tropical climate and environment was very different from what you find in this part of Arizona today.  After the super continent broke apart into today’s continents, Arizona was located in a place with the dry, arid environment we know today.  Fossils and beautiful petrified wood which are evidence of the environmental changes are found in the Petrified Forest National Park.

During the tropical time period, rivers and streams flowed through the area and in this lush tropical landscape trees up to ten feet in diameter and over two hundred feet tall grew.  Over time the trees died or were knocked down and carried by wind and water downstream.  Along the way branches broke off and tree trunks came to rest on river banks.  Most decomposed and disappeared but some of the trees were petrified.  The logs were buried in sediment, ash from volcanoes was carried by the wind and settled in the sediment.  This solution filled the cells of the logs, crystallizing as mineral quartz.  Iron and other minerals combined with the quartz during the petrification process creating brilliant rainbow colors.

About 60 million years ago the region was uplifted by earthquakes and tectonic movement and became part of the huge Colorado Plateau.  During this movement petrified logs were exposed.  Erosion today continues to wear away the land and expose more logs, while freezing and thawing over time break down the already exposed logs.IMG_20150511_171033

While petrified wood is found in every state and many countries, this is the largest and best preserved concentration of petrified wood in the United States.  There are signs throughout the park warning people not to remove any wood from the park, including the threat of prosecution if you do so.  Before the National Park Service took over the park many people came in and removed many logs, including digging for logs, crystals and gems.  We saw where much of the same vandalism had occurred at the Hopi dwellings at Homolovi State Park near Winslow.  Another sad example of this was at an area in Petrified Forest National Park called “Crystal Forest”.  They had a nice paved walkway that led among the petrified logs.  A sign said at one time the logs glistened in the sunlight with amethyst and quartz crystals.  But no more since vandals removed almost all the crystals from the logs.IMG_20150511_145804IMG_20150511_145755IMG_20150511_171217

Paleontologists have studied fossils in the park since the 1920’s, finding one of North America’s earliest dinosaur fossils.

While in the park we stopped by the Visitors Center where they had a large area with paved walkways through the largest area of petrified wood.  I took Bill’s picture beside one log known as ” Old Faithful”, the most massive log in the park.IMG_20150511_145054IMG_20150511_144628IMG_20150511_150857


These look like teepees

We drove part of a 28 mile road through the park with beautiful views of the Painted Desert, stopping at various viewpoints along the way.IMG_20150511_164719IMG_20150511_163925IMG_20150511_163831IMG_20150511_162145

When we arrived back at the gift shop, quite a few campers had joined us for the night.

The next morning we headed to our next stop, Gallup, New Mexico.  We chose the route that took us through the Petrified Forest National Park and we were able to complete the rest of the 28 mile drive which took us through more of the Painted Desert.  The colors were beautiful, with colors coming from bands of sediments deposited during the Triassic period millions of years ago.  The effects of millions of years of erosion, earthquakes and uplifting was evident.IMG_20150512_133338IMG_20150512_132054

Such an incredibly beautiful place!

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