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Friday, August 26, 2011

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

See all of the petrified logs dotting the area?
Please enjoy a little of the history of petrified wood while looking at our photos.  All of these photos were taken in the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona on June 13.  We were hiking on the Giant Logs Trail behind the Rainbow Forest Museum.  Be sure and enlarge the photos for much larger pictures.

The Petrified Forest National Park offers one of the world's largest and most colorful concentration of petrified wood.  Located in Eastern Arizona,  the park is about 3.5 hours from both Phoenix and Albuquerque.

There are two parts to this national park.  The northern part shows the Painted Desert and the southern part consists of the Petrified Forest.  Today I will talk about the Petrified Forest.




This is one of the largest sections of petrified wood there.  Its name is OLD FAITHFUL, and it has a diameter of 9.5 feet.  Isn't this just amazing?
The petrified wood found in the park began its existence as large trees from an ancient forest many many years ago.  After falling,  the trees were washed downstream from as far as 50 miles away onto a flood plain which lay on the current area of the park.  The logs were covered by volcanic sand and silt sometimes to a depth of 1100 feet.

This is the base of "Old Faithful".
If you don't remember studying about petrified wood in school,  you may ask what IS petrified wood...  Well---it literally means wood turned into stone.   It looks like wood but is much stronger and heavier.  The details in the stones are amazing.  You can even see the tree rings in some.

Here's the process of petrification:  The first step is that trees end up being buried by sand or volcanic ash or some other substance and therefore take a very long time to rot.  They are also submerged in water.  Most logs subjected to these conditions would simply decompose before the petrification process began,  but for some reason in SOME areas,  they don't.

Isn't this just awesome?  Look at all of the colors (minerals) in this one.


While they are buried,  water with a lot of dissolved minerals enters into the wood, and deposits minerals inside the tree's cells,  taking on the exact shape of a cell.  Over time,  all of the cells become filled with minerals while the organic matter decomposes.  The resulting stone looks  exactly like the tree.

Generally,  only the trunks of petrified trees are found because the leaves and branches are softer,  so they tend to decompose faster than the minerals can accumulate in the cells.




I couldn't quit taking pictures of these beauties.  I had never seen anything like this before.


Eventually, the land where the great logs were buried was lifted up by geological upheaval, and wind and rain began to wear away the overlying sediments,  finally exposing the long buried,  now petrified wood.

In the mid 1800's,  people began to flock to this area to take as much of the petrified wood as they could get.  By about 1870,  great quantities of glistening rock were being carried off by souvenir hunters and commercial developers,  who cut slabs from the logs for tabletops and mantles.   Petrified wood was also blasted apart in search of valuable amethysts or quartz crystals that some of the wood contains.

Concerned citizens (who wanted to protect the forest) went to the Arizona Territorial Legislature to seek federal protection for the area,  so the Petrified Forest was declared a national monument in 1906, and became a national park in 1962.  

I loved seeing all of the different colors,  plus just pondering the age of these 'trees'.  WOW!


The coloring:  Petrified wood can be found in many different colors.  What color the stones will be is dependent upon the chemicals in the soil.  Petrified wood is nearly all quartz crystals,  but quartz has almost no color.  It can be combined with other elements to add to the petrified wood.  If you add carbon,  the stone is black.  If you have copper,  it becomes green/blue;  if you have manganese, it becomes pink/orange.  Iron can make it orange, red, or yellow.

Believe it or not,  petrified wood is found on every continent except Antartica.  The colors can vary widely due to various minerals in the soil. And---there are several areas even in the USA where you can find petrified wood.   We were just lucky to be at the Petrified Wood National Park in Arizona.

Again,  all of the gorgeous colors caught my attention.  This was an awesome experience.


When you enter the park,  they talk about the importance of NOT taking the petrified wood with you.  AND---you are subject to being searched when you leave.  They STILL have alot of trouble with people trying to steal it.  Luckily,  the large pieces are too heavy!

When we pulled up to the check-out point when we were leaving,  the person asked us if we took anything valuable with us from the park.  George said, "Yes we did... We took a bunch of photos and have a bunch of memories".    She laughed and let us leave!!!

Hope you see this beauty someday (if you haven't).  It will always be a favorite place of ours... My prayers are with everyone who has been or will be affected by Hurricane Irene. May God be with you ALL.   See you on Monday.

Hugs,
Betsy