After eight days in Show Low, Arizona, staying at Fool Hollow Lake State Park, we finally headed east and then northwest kind of making a loop back toward Holbrook, Arizona on highway 180. About 19 miles prior to getting to Holbrook, we arrived at the south entrance to Petrified Forest National Park.
To be honest, we really did not know what to expect in visiting this “National Park”. But we thought that since we were in the area, we ought to at least take a look. In a word, we were “amazed”.
Imagine you are standing at an elevation of 5,000 feet above TODAY’S sea level, and that 225 million years ago that spot where you are standing was itself once under water. This is the location of Petrified Forest National Park. What today looks like a high arid plain was once a rainforest: hot, humid and lush. And there were trees. Lots of them.
Some were small, while others were massive. As the trees died or were knocked down by wind or water, many were carried downstream and buried by layers of sediment and volcanic ash. The logs soaked up groundwater and silica from this volcanic ash. Over time the this combination eroded and replaced the cellulose within the trees and crystallized into quartz, making them “petrified”. Different minerals made the rainbow of colors seen in many pieces. Simply amazing to see firsthand.
To date, the park road meanders in a north south direction for about 28 miles. All along the route there is abundant evidence of what happened here oh so many millions of years ago. there are entire tree, as well as entire tree segments all in a row where the sheer weight of the segments caused them to split.
In addition to petrified logs on the surface, there are many that are only partially exposed as evidenced in this photo showing layers of sediment and volcanic ash that has long been fused together.
Is it me, or is does this photo resemble a cat’s face.
Petrified Forest National Park is a vast area, most of which has not been opened to the public as yet, as geologists and archeologists work to “discover” and catalog new finds.
This photo of an area known as “Teepees”, is an example of the the layering that took place essentially burying what was once a vast rain forest.
The following photos show Agate Bridge, a 110 foot petrified tree that was found spanning a canyon. In 1905, a concrete support was fashioned to support this tree in an attempt to prevent its breaking up and falling into the canyon.
Pretty much anywhere you go along the road within the park reveals petrified trees, logs and log segments. These photos do not do justice to the varied colors that are evident in each petrified piece.
As we said, we were truly amazed. In our opinion, this is a must-see park within our National Park system. One cannot help but be fascinated by the volume of evidence present that something geologically special has occurred here in the high plains of northern Arizona.