Petrified Forest and Painted Desert

Petrified wood can be found in all 50 states of the United States as well as in a few other countries.  However, only here in the Petrified Forest National Park (pics) will you find such a vast amount of petrified wood laying about on top of the ground.  This park is located near Holbrook, AZ.

Petrified wood

Approximately 250 million years ago, during the late Triassic period, this area was a vast floodplain.  Tall conifer trees lined the many streams that crossed the plain.  Over time the trees fell, and the swollen streams washed them into adjacent floodplains.  A mix of silt, mud and volcanic ash from distant volcanoes buried the logs.  This sediment cut off oxygen and slowed the logs’ decay.  Then silica-laden groundwater seeped through the logs, replacing the original wood tissues with silica and petrifying the logs.  Over time, uplift from earthquakes and erosion exposed a vast amount of these petrified logs.

Petrified wood logs

Petrified wood’s varied colors came from minerals in the silica-saturated water.  Iron, carbon and manganese made patterns and blends of yellow, red, black, blue, brown, white and pink.  Surprisingly heavy, petrified wood weighs up to 200 pounds per cubic foot.  It is also extremely hard, requiring a diamond tipped saw to be cut.

Painted Desert

As a happy two-for-one, the northern area of the park encompasses a portion of the Painted Desert.  The desert is comprised of stratified layers of easily erodible siltstone, mudstone and shale creating a colorful and lovely landscape.

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