Sep 27

Petrified Forest

Category: Arizona

After the Barringer crater, we drove to the petrified forest, which is about a four hour drive from Flagstaff.  It’s a “small” park by national park standards, but still an enormous land area.

Driving out west, it’s true about what “they” say – that distances on maps are deceiving.  I guess you have to account for the curvature of the earth as you go south; it’s a little more stretched out.  But four hours of driving out here is very different than four hours in the I95 corridor on the east coast.  Out east it’s a Hobbesian struggle to fight your way to your destination passing through many uninspiring, paved, or blighted urban scenes.

Driving through the four corners area is a different thing altogether.  First of all it is not crowded, and you can go 80 miles an hour without fear of being pulled over (speed limit of 75).  You will go by many incredible natural vistas as you go to to your destination, things that would be worthy of visiting themselves but which are simply distractions in this region.



The petrified wood here is one of the hardest naturally occurring minerals.  There are only a few types of saws that can cut it.  Although many of the logs look strangely cut – very even – it is a result of the brittle stone breaking when the soil erodes from underneath it; the stone has a characteristic strength and mass that cause it to break at regular intervals as strain increases on the trunk over time.





A temporary cloud formation cast an eerie shadow across the cliffs, causing them to glow fantastically in the distance over the darkened plain.



The colors of the petrified wood are in technicolor.


Lichens grow on the surfaces.  I’ve read that in some of these logs, if the minerals are dissolved with acids in the laboratory, organic material still remains.


The environment of the petrified forest park ranges from grassy arid prairie to stark desert. Most of it is a “wasteland.”



But plants manage to survive in places, even to prosper:




Rain does come to this arid place:


Remember, all of this is solid, hard rock, even though it looks like wood that fell recently.  It’s astonishing; I kept going up to logs and tapping on them to check.  They were always hard stone.


The number  and wide distribution of petrified logs is surprising.  Of course, the stone logs don’t just occur in the park, they are spread out over a large area.  Most of it lies on private land and is “mined” for sale.  The soil still resembles the volcanic ash that once covered an enormous logjam of dead wood as the delta of a river that disappeared hundreds of millions of years ago.




2 Comments so far

  1. radhika January 15th, 2012 3:04 AM

    awesome pics by awesome people
    sometimes it use to feel glad dt we r been provided with such gud resourses d basic need is to exp;oit n get it

  2. Teresa Hermes October 4th, 2013 12:55 AM

    Beautiful photos. I am curious what type of petrified wood it is in picture 9. I have some of this.. If anyone can let me know it would be great

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