Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park 2017

Today Northern Arizona has a desert climate.   But it wasn’t always that way.  During the Triassic Period, 225 million years ago, this was a tropical landscape with abundant vegetation. Also home to early dinosaurs and reptiles while the rivers supported fish, clams, snails and crayfish and giant conifer trees reached 180 feet to the sky.   Trees fell in the rivers.   Soon they became covered with silt, volcanic ash and minerals, which prevented decay.   The wood became saturated with minerals.   Silica crystals replaced the wood.   Now we have petrified logs here, in northern Arizona at the Petrified Forest National Park.

Petrified Forest National Park

The is reputed to be one of the best areas for petrified wood in the world.  We visited here in March 2016, but like so many places, it is worth another visit.   The weather is warmer now, but it is still windy and many clouds in the sky.   This year we visited the Painted Desert section of the park first.   The colors of the desert are spectacular.

Painted desert

We stopped at most of the lookout points along the way.   We enter the historic Paint Desert Inn.

Painted Desert Inn

This inn is on the National Historic Landmark List.   The kitchen is still used.

Kitchen

Passing through the kitchen we admire the desert views from a lounging area.   Aren’t these hand painted ceiling tiles beautiful?

These ceiling tiles are beautiful with the old wooden beams.

And the old wooden beams are gorgeous.   This petroglyph look familiar.

Petroglyph

We stopped at the Painted Desert gift shop and information center.   A copy of this petroglyph is proudly displayed in the plaza between the buildings.  The summer tourist season is here, so the ice cream shop is open.

Ice cream. Always good

We love ice cream.   And, yes, those are gummy worms on the ice cream.   We probably won’t do that again.   Cold gummy worms were interesting, but once might be enough.   This is the view from the ice cream shop.

Painted desert from Painted Desert Inn

America’s historic Route 66 separates the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest.   Route 66 connected Chicago and Los Angeles.   Americans were buying cars, gasoline was inexpensive, and people wanted to drive across the United States.   Route 66 was the most famous road of the time.   This 1932 Studebaker is a reminder and tribute to all who traveled this road.

1932 Studebaker on Route 66

As the landscape changes from desert to desert with petrified wood, we want to show you what we saw.

Those are not rocks. They are petrified logs

The hills is the distance appear to have large boulders; they are petrified logs.   The colors in the logs are produced by minerals.   Red and pink show a presence of hematite.   Yellow, brown and orange have a presence of goethite, derived by weathering from iron bearing minerals.   Green is from pure reduced iron.   White is pure silica.   Black results from either organic carbon or pyrite.   Purple and blue are produced by manganese dioxide.    This information was provided by the gift shop at the park.

This really is wood.

Agate Bridge is a fossilized tree, 110 feet long.   This tree grew in the tropical forest 217 million years ago while dinosaurs roamed the area.

Agate Bridge

This bridge was once used by humans, but now humans and traveling ducks are not allowed to be on the bridge.   In 1917 (a hundred years ago), the concrete supports were built.   Even though we know this is petrified wood, we are still amazed how much it looks like rock.

Love the colors of the wood

This log is great also and we see so many more in the background.

Petrified log with many more in the background

We are in a National Park so it is not allowed to take anything, including petrified wood from the park.  We are happy about that.   We hiked on some of the trails and enjoyed the wood laying around.   We were here last year also and would love to return again.   We ducks, and humans, love our National Parks.   You will enjoy a visit also.

 

Petrified Forest National Park with Zeb, Soapy Smith and JB Duck

Here we are, entering another National Park.   Remember this is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, but several parks are older than 100 years.

Petrified Forest National Park in Northern Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park in Northern Arizona

But, what is petrified wood?   This is the explanation from the National Park Service.   Approximately 216 million years ago, these trees died and fell in a river.   They were buried beneath layers of silt, mud, sand and volcanic ash, which protected them from decay.   Mineral laden ground water percolated through the layers,carrying silica from the volcanic ash and other trace minerals.   The absorbent dead wood became saturated with the minerals.   The silica, or quartz, crystals slowly bonded with the cells of the tree replicating the organic material in perfect detail.   Eventually, silica replaced the old material.    Wow, that is pretty involved.   The short version is a log is petrified when all the original plant material is replaced by minerals.   First stop for us was the museum and Visitor’s Center.   This is a petrified tree stump.   We love the colors in the petrified wood.

Colors of petrified wood

Colors of petrified wood

Check out this long log.

35 foot long log weighs 44 tons

35 foot long log weighs 44 tons.   Don’t we look little?

This log, sometimes called “Old Faithful”, is 35 feet long and weighs 44 tons.   Big and heavy.   We are still in the northern Arizona desert and we loved this blooming cactus.

Blooming cactus

Blooming cactus

This is Agate Bridge.

Petrified log forms Agate Bridge

Petrified log forms Agate Bridge

The bridge is formed by a fossilized tree, 110 feet long.   This tree flourished in a lush tropical forest 217 million years ago.   The supportive concrete span was built in 1917.

There is a river bed under the bridge

There is a river bed under the bridge

It was very windy when we were here, so we rubber ducks had to be protected.   We did not want to go in the river under the Agate Bridge.   There are really two parts to the Petrified Forest National Park.   Interstate 40 divides the park, with the petrified forest part south of the highway, and the area north of I-40 is the Painted Desert.   These great colors are in the area of transition.

Colorful

Colorful

Years ago, before interstate highways were built, Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles was a favorite road.   Route 66 came through this part of Arizona.

Route 66. An American favorite

Route 66. An American favorite.   Route 66 crossed the Petrified Forest National Park.

We also saw this 1932 Studebaker by the road.   This is a real piece of Americana.

1932 Studebaker

1932 Studebaker

So many people drove this road and there are so many great memories here.    Aren’t the colors of this Painted Desert beautiful?

Looking at painted desert in the canyon

Looking at painted desert in the canyon

There are many such lookouts into the canyon.   We stopped at several of them.   This is the famous Painted Desert Inn, now a National Historic Landmark.

Painted Desert Inn

Painted Desert Inn

We went inside.   The old soda fountain is still there.   We really liked this petroglyph.

Petroglyph

Petroglyph

Everything in this park is so wonderful and colorful.   This is a panorama from the overlook of the Painted Desert Inn.

Panorama view of Painted Desert from Inn

Panorama view of Painted Desert from Inn

What an incredible view to watch the sunset and sunrise.   We hope you stop to see the Petrified Forest National Park and also enjoy the Painted Desert.     The gift shops here are wonderful also.   We brought home some heavy bags.   Petrified wood plaques are very heavy.