The Petrified Forest

The Petrified Forest

Petrified Forest National Park is known for its fossils, especially of fallen trees that lived about 225 million years ago. At that time, northeastern Arizona was a low plain flanked by mountains to the south and a sea to the west. Water flowing across the plain from the highlands deposited inorganic sediment and organic matter, including trees that had fallen into the water. Although most organic matter decays rapidly or is eaten by other organisms, some is buried so quickly that it remains intact and may become fossilized. Thus, the Petrified Forest was born.

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We were told when we entered the park that under no circumstances were we to take any petrified wood from the park, and that our vehicle could be searched. Posted signs reinforced that message. However, despite the multiple warnings, it is estimated that 12 tons of petrified wood are stolen from the park each year. This was nowhere more obvious than at the Crystal Forest section of the park. The petrified wood there is known for brilliant colors and beautiful crystals. But honestly, we saw very little of that. Most had been vandalized or stolen.

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(There are many places to buy pieces of petrified wood in the area surrounding the park. So if you’re interested in having a piece as a souvenir, stop there. We found that not only do they offer pieces of wood in a wide variety of sizes, they also offer other souvenir items. And they were willing to bargain with us on the price.)

The park has a wonderful Junior Ranger program for children that sends them on a scavenger hunt for information about the park. Once completed, they show their answers to a Visitors Center employee, take the Junior Ranger oath, and get a Junior Ranger patch.

The Petrified Forest National Park is located at 1 Park Road, Petrified Forest, AZ 86028. Telephone 928-524-6228. It is open daily but hours vary according to season. Visiting the park can easily be combined with a trip to the adjacent Painted Desert as well.

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