Sunday, April 3, 2016

Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert


On the way back home driving from a family wedding in Arizona, my husband and I decided to re-visit the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. We had visited the park many years before when our children were pre-teens, on a trip we took to the Grand Canyon and the Meteor Crater near Flagstaff. The Petrified National Forest is located in northwestern Arizona, 28 miles east of the Navajo Nation town of Holbrook, along I-40 and old Roue 66.  The park is a surprising land of scenic wonders, featuring one of the world's largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood.   It also contains the multi hued badlands of the Chinle Formation known as the Painted Desert. Within the Petrified Forest National Park are historic structures, archaeological sites, and displays of 225 million year old fossils. (All photos will enlarge if clicked on)


Imagine a time 225 million years ago when the earths climate and the continental land masses were very different. This was a time when lush green forests filled the landscape with 200 foot trees. many of the type that are now extinct in the northern hemisphere. Volcanic mountains erupted, toppling those trees, which were then swept away by waterways and covered with volcanic ash and sediment. Those trees became entombed and over millions of years of time they became petrified.


Through gradual erosion, the gigantic logs and remnants of the petrified trees became exposed. They are now fascinating glimpses back in time for the over 600,000 annual visitors to the park to see.


The Petrified National Park consists of two main sections, and recent legislation has authorized doubling the land area to 217,533 acres. The southern part of the park has the major concentrations of the famous colorful petrified wood.  Most of the pieces have been broken by the elements into giant logs, and are scattered over the land as far as the eye can see.



Some of the formations are more tree like in shape.


We stopped into one of the visitors centers called the Rainbow Forest Museum.  Here we watched an interesting 20 minute orientation movie about the park and looked at the paleontological exhibits complete with skeleton displays of the prehistoric vertebrates found in the park--including the giant crocodile like reptile called the phytosaurs,and the large salamander like amphibians called Buettneria, plus early dinosaurs such as the pterosaurs, and invertebrates including freshwater snails and clams


Outside the Rainbow Forest Museum are trails where you can see the beautiful pieces of petrified wood up close.  It is now against the law to remove any of the wood from the park, with strict fines imposed for any type of vandalism. Unfortunately, for many years before the area was protected by the government, large pieces of the petrified wood was removed by visitors for their own use or sold. There are still places that are outside the park in Navajo Nation that have petrified wood for sale, and since those pieces came from private land, they can be bought without penalty.


You can see the beautiful rainbow hues of the stone like wood in these photos.


There are many trails within the park. One of the most interesting formations is found on the Giant Logs Trail, a giant petrified tree called "Old Faithful."  As you can see in the photo collage above it was truly massive, with a base base over 10 feet tall!


There were many different areas to see the petrified wood.....


...and this region is called the Crystal Forest.


The Crystal Forest Trail allows you to see the silica quartz in the petrified wood, that sparkles in the sun. During the 1800's people actually dynamited some of these logs in order to extract the quartz. Now visitors are required by law to protect these samples for future visitors by not taking pieces of them.


As we drove north in the park, the topography kept changing, with many colorful buttes and mesas.


The Petrified Forest National Park area it is constantly changing, as weather and time continues to erode it.


An example of the changing scenery can be read about in the placard above (click on to enlarge)


This structure is called the Agate Bridge.  Centuries of flood waters washed out the area beneath this 110 foot long petrified log, and it formed a natural bridge. Conservationists over the years have tried to preserve this bridge, by first placing architectural support in 1911, and then a concrete span in 1917. Current National Park philosophy would be to allow nature to take its course, which would have left the Agate Bridge in its natural state, even if it means allowing it to fall.


As we continued to drive north we entered the Painted Desert section of the Petrified Forest National Park. The colorful mudstones and clay of the Painted desert badlands are composed of bentonite, a product of altered volcanic ash. The clay minerals in the bentonite absorb water, and the expansion and contraction properties of the bentonite causes rapid erosion. This prevents vegetation from growing on the hills.


The painted desert is also composed of stratified layers of easily erodible siltstone, mudstone, and shale of the Triassic period Chinle Formation.  These fine grained rock layers contain abundant ion and manganese compounds which provide the pigments for the various colors of the region.



The patterns visible in the eroded soft sedimentary rocks are due mainly to hermatite (red), limonite (yellow) and gypsum (white).


Exposed to wind and water, the formations erode into badlands made up of cliffs, gullies, mesas, buttes, and rounded hills.


The Petrified Forest National Park has many viewing sites in which to look down to these fanciful formations.


The time of day makes the colors change with shadows and brightness. Sunset is said to be the most magical time to view them.


The entire Painted Desert encompasses over 93,500 acres and stretches over 160 miles. It begins about 30 miles north of Cameron, Arizona, near the southeastern rim of the Grand Canyon to the Petrified Forest, where it is protected wilderness.  There are a few authorized hiking trails within the park, check this link for their location.  There are no camping facilities within the park. Check this link for other camping info.


Some more beautiful views....







The Painted Desert Inn . This 100 old structure is now a museum, The original building was made of petrified wood, but today's adobe facade dates back to a 1930's renovation. Inside is an exhibit on the historic Roue 66, and the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Please click on to enlarge

There is also a placard nearby about the historic story of he once heavily traveled road Route 66 which ran from Chicago to Los Angeles.  The Petrified Forest National Park is the only National Park that a portion of the road passed through. You can also read more about Route 66 on the National Park web site here.


We left the Petrified Forest National Park grounds, but the amazing scenery continued,

We were on our way towards New Mexico, and hoping to reach the reservation we made at a hotel in Las Vegas---yes, not the famous Las Vegas of Nevada, but the Las Vegas of New Mexico-- before nightfall.  New Mexico is called "The Land of Enchantment" for good reason.  My next blog post will show more about what we saw on our journey home through this beautiful state!

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66 comments:

Michelle said...

Pat, this is just a beautiful area. I haven't visited The Petrified National Forest, but would love to.

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Pat, your photos have bought back many happy memories from 1970. My husband and baby daughter went to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert on our way to California. This is such an amazing area and you have captured its beauty so well. I love your information and I will revisit the links you have provided. Have a lovely evening! ♥

happywonderer.com said...

So beautiful and weird at the same time. I can see filming science fiction films here...

ladyfi said...

What amazing scenery and gorgeous shots.

Linda W. said...

The petrified wood looks really cool! Another National Park I need to visit. The painted hills looks like the John Day painted hills we have here in Oregon.

Mersad said...

A wonderful journey, well documented. I love the stone formations and dead trees in the desert. All so unusal looking. Thank you for linking in with "Through My Lens"

Mersad
Mersad Donko Photography

Bill Nicholls said...

Thanks for showing all that, what an amazing place to visit

LV said...

Been a long time since I saw this place. I truly enjoyed seeing it through your lens again.

Pamela Gordon said...

WOW!! Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos Pat. It is all so amazing to see and think about how nature has changed it over the eons. I look forward to your next tour. Have a great week!
Hugs, Pam

Margaret Adamson said...

What an amazing place to visit and thanks for all the photos of it.

Jarek said...

Very interesting post. Beautiful place and great photos too

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Beautiful photos, Pat! Both parts are places my husband and I always talked about visiting on our trips to Arizona but never got there. I have a polished petrified wood bracelet and ring that were purchased at a local artist's jewelry store on one of our first visits to Scottsdale many years ago.

Haddock said...

Like that evolution, .... from the log of wood.

Tamar SB said...

I have always been fascinated by petrified wood!

eileeninmd said...

Hello pat, thank you for sharing your park visit. The photo of you near the huge petrified tree shows just how massive the tree was. I love the colors of the rock formations. Wonderful collection of photos. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

Daniela said...

My dearest Pat,
your Nature is so fascinating, everything seem made by people, instead it is Time the 'leading actor' in such amazing processes ... I'm truly speechless !

Hope your week is off to a great start, I wish you a wonderful remainder of your week
sending blessings of joy to you

Dany

geriatrixrt said...

We visited this area about forty years ago. As far as I remember it wasn't a National Park. We still have a piece of petrified wood, we are very fond of. Thanks for reminding me!

Cathy Keller said...

Again you have taken us on a wonderful adventure. You take the most beautiful photos. The colors are so vivid, beautiful! Thank you! Wishing you well!!

Forest Dream Weaver said...

Wow...what an interesting and beautiful post.
Your photos are fabulous......amazing colours!
Thank you....have a lovely week!

Gemma Wiseman said...

Breathtaking scenery. The petrified forest is intriguing, but I especially love the wide variety of rocky tones and shapes in the badlands.

Alexa T said...

Amazing and beautiful! so true:"a surprising land of scenic wonders..." I've never seen such landscapes, only in documentaries!
Fabulous and a great chance to visit! many thanks for sharing all of these incredible pictures! Greetings!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Wow, what beautiful places you have visited since moving out west, Pat. These photos are just stunning.

NC Sue said...

Amazing! Some of your posts lately have been stunning... and this is one of them!
Thank you for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/04/this-is-what-hope-looks-like.html

abrianna said...

We went to the south rim of the Grand Canyon last summer and saw part of the Painted Desert by the Inn. I took lots of pictures of the Canyon.

This summer it is the North rim and the Archlands parks.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Great post, it has been 50 years plus or minus since I have been there. Thankfully it doesn't look like things have changed that much.

Rajesh said...

Beautiful shots from national park. A very nice rock formations.

Jeanne said...

Good evening Pat, I am late visiting today and I am trying so hard to visit everyone before I go to bed. Sally was so faithful to visit all who joined Blue Monday and I am trying to do the same. I am really enjoying it as well.

Your post on the Painted Desert was going down memory lane. We loved visiting that park so much. Each photo you shared I was looking for the petrified bridge. Smile. I was amazed by the bridge when we visited the Painted Desert. Your photos are beautiful and show the beauty of the park so well.

Happy Blue Monday and thank you for linking today.
xo
Jeanne

Jeanne said...

PS: Of course I meant to say our visit to the Petrified Forest as well as the Painted desert. We visited both places on the same day. I bet you did too.

Me again. LOL.

Pondside said...

What amazing natural features. I'd heard the names Petrified Forest and Painted Desert but has somehow imagined that they were euphemistic. The Petrified Forest is a place I'd love to see - especially after seeing the photo of you with the huge remnant! What a trip you had!

lotusleaf said...

Thanks for a wonderful trip through the Petrified forest and the lovely painted desert. The deser reminded me of the Thar desert in India, which is not so colourful.

NatureFootstep said...

how wonderful to see your images and such great memories they bring back. I g´have been there once so many years ago. But it seems they take good care of the place :)

Thanks for good memories :)

jandi said...

such amazing landscapes! what an incredible area!

Fun60 said...

That was a fascinating trip you took me on. I always think of the US as a new country so a photographic reminder of its geological history was just what I needed.

Gracie said...

We saw a documentary on tv a while ago and this is the place my husband really wishes to visit if he ever would make it to the States...who knows?

Denise inVA said...

Great photos of an amazing area and very interesting to read about. Thank you Pat :)

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

What an amazing place. It almost looks like it's from another time and place and not here for us to enjoy in America. 225 million years ago is really hard for me to wrap around my head. Thank you for taking us along to see this incredible site. The only petrified thing I've ever seen was a cypress knob in a pine forest :)
Sam

carol l mckenna said...

Absolutely gorgeous photography ~ Loved the area when I visited ~ Glad you are exploring so much with your wonderful photography!

Wishing you peace in each day ~ ^_^

Donna said...

Ph Pat I love this spot....I have never been able to stop and visit for very long....I hope to one day in the near future to make a day of it! Thanks for sharing.....

Cheryl @ TFD said...

This is such a beautiful park and I remember when we drove through years ago. The scenery we saw on our trip out west was amazing and I am wanting to go back again. Maybe this will be the year! Looking forward to what you saw in New Mexico!

Gillena Cox said...

WOW! these are breathtaking
Have a nice week

much love...

Janice / Dancing with Sunflowers said...

Thank you! That was truly fascinating. I had heard of the Painted Desert but not of the Petrified Forest. I would so love to visit and see these sights for myself. Your photographs are gorgeous.

Betsy Adams said...

Awesome group of photos and info... We visited all of this in 2011 on our first and only trip to that area... I was AMAZED at everything I saw on that trip... Now I need to go back and see it all again... SO gorgeous.

We also took some of Route 66 on that trip --and even ate at an old diner along that road... More amazement and fun.

Thanks for sharing.
Hugs,
Betsy

Barb said...

Your photos are just fantastic, Pat! Isn't the geology of the Earth incredible? The colors in the rock and wood are so lovely. Some of those ancient petrified trees are huge!

Ruth Rieckehoff said...

To be honest, I have never seen such detailed photos of this. A friend of mine once told me this was a boring park with no wood at all. Well, I am not sure where he went since your photos show another thing. Thanks for sharing! I always get inspired to explore when I see your pictures.

Raquel Jiménez Lastras said...

Un lugar impresionante, esos árboles petrificados son algo magnífico...
Besos

diane b said...

Thank you for taking me to these sites.It is one of the places I would have liked to see when we were in US but we never had time. The painted desert is an amazing landscape and the colours so diversified. The petrified forest sure is a wonder too. Great photos too.

Sara - My Woodland Garden said...

Thank you, Pat, for sharing these amazing photos! It would be wonderful to visit the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. A tree hugger, I would love to hug these ones too. :)
I don't know much about Route 66, but I have loved it since the 2006 Pixar film "Cars".

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

So much natural beauty. Traveling through this whole area is one of our best RVing memories. But oh my gosh, my pictures don't hold a candle to yours ... You captured the colors and the light and the changes so beautifully. (And you really make me wish we could go back someday.). Looking forward to my virtual visit to New Mexico through your eyes!

Ida said...

Wow & double Wow! This was wonderful. The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest looks amazing and totally awesome. I so enjoyed all your photos of this trip.

CountryMouse said...

What an amazing landscape. The different minerals do have interesting affect on the layers of stone. The petrified trees are interesting. Lovely to see this.

Christine said...

Thanks so much for sharing this awesome place! I am fascinated by the rock formations and petrified trees.
Thank you for your visit and comments on my blog and for following. Much appreciated!
I am so glad you enjoyed your visits to Northern Ireland and Carrickfergus. Come back soon!
Best wishes
Christineandhercamera.blogspot.com

Butterfly 8)(8 Bungalow said...

You took some great photos. It looks like it might have been a little wet; the best colors are when it is wet. I use to live near there when I was a kid. Of course everything is just down the road a bit out there. Las Vegas, New Mexico is where they filmed a popular tv show, and it has the coolest old buildings not typical of New Mexico, so I can't wait to see what you photographed. xoxo Su

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

It's amazing how so many of the rocks do look like wood and then later on some appeared to be Nature Made pyramids. What an interesting part of the country.

Anne's Attic - Design said...

Thank you for sharing at SYC!

uberrhund said...

My daughter and i were just talking about a return trip to New Mexico since we have not visited for 25 years. Your post is full of great photos and I look forward to the next week!

Sarah Carletti said...

Beautiful. I can't believe how large the one tree was!

Cathy said...

Thanks Pat for the beautiful pictures and the fabulous written descriptions.

Stephanie Robinson said...

Wow! What a beautiful and fascinating place. Stunning captures too #LTTL

Ann said...

My family visited the Petrified Forrest when I was a child, I still remember how amazing it was. The colors are certainly beautiful.
Ann

The Artful Diva said...

Mother Nature at her finest!

Art and Sand said...

Oh, the memories this evoked - I was 7 years old!

Thanks for sharing with SYC.

Laura said...

So many beautiful colors!

Klara said...

wonderful!!! such a great place.

Lisa Kerner said...

That is very cool, it reminds me of the Black Hills. And I love the colors in the petrified pieces of wood. I have been to a petrified forest before but the wood was more gray in color.

Lisa @ LTTL

Al said...

It looks fantastic, and is definitely a place I'd love to see.

Jann Olson said...

Millie, you go so many wonderful places and take such fabulous photos. Thanks for sharing them with SYC.
hugs,
Jann