Exploring the Petrified Forest National Park

by on September 10th, 2010
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Petrified Forest National Park:

Located between Apache and Navajo Counties in northeastern Arizona, and about twenty-six miles east of Holbrook along Interstate 40, with the historic US Route 66, the “Main Street of America,” passing through on its way to California, the portion of the Colorado Plateau known as the Petrified Forest National Park covers approximately 146 square miles of colorful badlands, more than six hundred archeological sites, and a section of the Painted Desert National Monument. Other topical features of the Park include semi-desert shrub steppes, more than four hundred species of plants such as blue grama, evening primrose, sagebrush, mariposa lilies, blue flax, saltbrush, Eurasian tamarisk, gypsum, and rabbitbrush, however, huge deposits of petrified wood remain the Star attractions of the Petrified Forest National Park.

Painted Desert National Monument:

Famous for its brightly colored yellow, red, lavendar, gray, orange, blue, purple, green, brown, and pink landscaping, and composed from stratified layers of mudstone, shale, and siltstone from the Prehistoric Triassic Chinle Formation, that are capped by limestone and lacustrine volcanic layers, as well as volcanic ash, that provide silican dioxide for the area’s petrified logs, the Painted Desert stretches over 93,500 acres from the Grand Canyon to the Petrified Forest National Park.

The Painted Desert is located mainly within the Navajo Indian Nation with the Native villages of Tuba City, that features the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum, Coal Mine Canyon, and wellknown dinosaur tracks, and Cameron, with its famous trading posts, craft stalls, and restaurants nearby. Other attractions of the Painted Desert National Monument include the Wupatki National Monument Indian Ruins, the Puerco Pueblo and Agate House Monuments, and the Painted Desert Inn that lacks accommodations.

Petrified Forest Wilderness Area:

Designated October 23, 1970, and possessing about 50,260 acres, the Petrified Forest Wilderness Area contains the pinelike trees that once sheltered many species of reptiles but fell, and now are covered with crystallized quartz of the dry Arizona tableland that fills more than half of the Petrified Forest National Park and Puerco Ridge. Two thousand year old stone houses, and Prehistoric petroglyphs, can also be seen throughout the Wilderness area.

Chinle Geological Formation:

The Prehistoric Chinle Geological Formation, a broad band of vivid colored rocks, reaches across western Colorado, western New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, with the five Upper and Lower Petrified Forest Members, known as the Mesa Redondo, found in the Tepees Section of the Park, the Park’s oldest section, the Blue Mesa, that is full of purple, blue, and green mudstones, with Newspaper Rock Bed its most famous feature, the Sonseia Member, containing the Camp Butte Beds, full of white sandstones, the Lot’s Wife Beds full of purple mudstones,the Jasper Forest Bed, that contains most of the petrified wood in the Petrified Forest National Park, the Jim Camp Wash Beds, and the Martha’s Butte Beds, with their purple mudstones and brown sandstones, that are known as the Flattops One Sandstones Section, and the Black Forest Beds, full of scenic erosion formations and fossilized woods.

Wildlife:

The myriad assortment of wildlife that makes the Petrified Forest National Park their home includes forty-five species of mammals, desert cottontail rabbits, pronghorn sheep, prairie dogs, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, badgers, jackrabbits, pallid bats, scorpions, hawks, Golden Eagles, raptors, blue warblers, killdeer, tiger salamanders, raccoons, skunks, shrews, white-tailed antelope squirrels, gophers, mule deer, many types of lizards, a variety of snakes, more than two hundred species of birds, and unique kangaroo rats that never drink water.

Fossils:

Among the many fossils that have been found in the Petrified Forest National Park are Late Triassic Period ferns, ginkgoes, cycads, and araucarioxylon arizonicum, considered to be the State Fossil of Arizona, a massive conifer tree commonly known as “Rainbow Wood,” because of its vast assortment of coloring, that could stand more than two hundred feet tall, and measure more than two feet in diameter. Other fossils that have been found in the Park include ancient woodworthia arizonica and schilderia adamonica trees, more than two hundred species of plants, lycopods, giant, long-snouted, heavily-armored, crocodile-like reptiles known as phytosaurs, large salamander-like dinosaurs known as Buttneria, and many varieties of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Activities:

The Petrified Forest National Park provides many excellent options for exploration through its designated hiking trails including the unpaved Painted Desert Rim Trail from Tawa Point to Kachina Point, the Puerco Pueblo Loop Trail through the ancient remains and petroglyphs of a one hundred room pueblo, the very steep Blue Mesa Loop Trail through some of the Park’s badlands area, the narrow Crystal Forest Loop Trail among colorful petrified logs, the Giant Logs Loop Trail behind the Rainbow Forest Museum that takes visitors past the famous ten foot wide at the base petrified log known as “Old Faithful,” or by off-trail hiking through the Petrified Forest Wilderness Area. Other activities guests can enjoy in the Park include Wilderness camping, horseback riding, earthcaching, geocaching, guided tours, Artist-in-Residence programs, cultural demonstrations, Keystone Arch walks, Triassic Programs to learn how the Park’s trees became petrified, and scenic overlooks at Tawa Point, Tiponi Point, Chinde Point, Pintado Point, Kachina Point, Lacey Point, Whipple Point, and Nizhoni Point.

Contact:

Petrified Forest National Park
1 Park Road
Post Office Box 2217
Petrified Forest, Arizona 86028
928-524-6228

Sources:

This Article was compiled from several websites that provide much more information about the Petrified Forest National Park including:

http://www.nps.gov/pefo/naturescience/geologicformations.htm
http://www.protrails.com/area.php?areaID=288subid=5
http://www.arizona-leisure.com/painted-desert.html
http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS&sec=wildView&wid=454
http://www.petrified.forest.national-park.com


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