gif: petrified forest

The natural beauty of Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona is undeniable.The colorful landscape, open skies and unique formations make for excellent hiking and photography. But that beauty is all a bonus on top of the important scientific mission of the park. The fossil record at the Petrified Forest preserves everything from fossil pollen to some of the earliest dinosaurs, and allows for the reconstruction of several ancient environments through time. Photo by Hallie Larsen, National Park Service.

Have you ever seen lightning make such crazy shapes? This bolt looks like a Tyrannosaurus rex getting ready to chomp a formation at Blue Mesa in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park. Monsoons usher in summer lightning, so explore safely and be sure to check the weather. Photo by Hallie Larsen, National Park Service.

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Such great petrified stumps! Found so many more this time. I can’t wait to really explore that hillside. There’s a petrified forest in the mudflow up there. Kept finding more big chunks on the hill above these. Nicely agatized, visible growth rings, but very brittle. Love how thick the moss and lichen was too- no one’s ever collected rock from there before. I took a few small hand samples and won’t touch the rest. It’s got no lapidary value but is a stunning natural outdoor museum. This formation roughly matches the John Day Monument, so 33-40 million years according to their testing. 

BLM land, but fully enclosed- no public access at this time. I had permission to cross private property to get there. 

Declared a national park in 1962, Petrified Forest National Park occupies approximately 230 square miles of Arizona. While the park is home to numerous fossilized trees that date back to the Triassic Period (225 million years ago), it also contains over 600 archaeological sites including petroglyphs from the area’s more modern inhabitants. The park averages just over 600,000 visitors per year with 2016 seeing a slight decrease in visitors from previous years. An additional challenge that the park faces is theft of petrified wood. In early 2016, one individual was caught attempting to steal 139 pounds of petrified wood from the park.