Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Petrified Forest National Park

As we continued our quest to see new and interesting areas, the Petrified Forest National Park was high on our list of must things to see. Located 19 miles from Holbrook on a beautiful day we started our adventure. During our stay in Zion we bought an annual National Parks pass so the cost was free to us today. Entering we were asked if we had any rocks or petrified wood in the vehicle. At an alarming rate people are removing the rock from the park even with all the signs telling people not to. It's also against the law with hefty fines.
We started at the south entrance
The visitor center had a wonderful short film on the history of the forest which we watched before venturing out. During the Triassic Period, 200 million years ago this area was located near the equator. Imagine trees 200 feet tall and nine feet in diameter. However, overtime trees died and were carried into the lowlands by rivers, only to be covered with sediment before they decomposed. Silica mixed with the ground water was deposited in the cell walls causing crystallization. Iron rich minerals along with quartz during the petrifying process created the rainbow of colors.
Giant Logs at the visitors center
Petrified wood - rainbow of colors
The Petrified Forest National Park was first established as a National Monument in 1906 then elevated to a national park in 1962. The park has over 93,000 acres of land. There is a 28 mile paved park road with several pull-offs allowing us to get the full scope of the park. Trails are generally short and paved to allow people to get up close to the logs.

Getting up close as we explored
Some of these logs are monstrous
? Wood or rock of many colors
These logs were not cut they fractured after petrification
Agate Bridge is the result of centuries of scouring flood waters eroding away the softer sandstone creating a gully under the now suspended harder petrified log.
Agate bridge
Conversationalist felt the need to preserve this natural bridge so in 1917 they built a concrete support. If found today, National Parks Services philosophy would leave it in it's natural state allowing natural forces that created it to take it's course.

What does Route 66 and the Petrified Forest have in common. Well, it is the only national park that contains a section of Historic Route 66. Traces of old road bed and weathered telephone poles mark the "Main Street of America". 
No power lines but poles are still present
An old car symbolizes Route 66

Exhausted we decided to call it a day only to return tomorrow to do the other half of the park. The one outstanding point that we found staggering was in spite of all the signs and the treat of severe penalties and the ability to buy legal petrified wood, people still choose to remove one ton of the petrified forest per month.

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