Petrified Forest and Painted Desert Part I

Tucked between I-40 and Route 180 some 25 miles north and south of Holbrook, AZ, lies the Petrified Forest National Park.

This is one of the best places in the world to see fossils from the Late Triassic Period. Prehistoric forests became petrified wood. Smaller dinosaurs fought for survival with crocodile-like reptiles. Even harder to imagine is that this desert grassland was a tropical rainforest over 225 million years ago! Since then, continents moved, uplifted and parted. The climate changed and the river, plants, and animals were buried by layers of sediment. Ongoing wind and water sculpted this area and left behind this prehistoric glimpse of Arizona. (from Park brochure)

We enter the 28 mile forest road off of Exit 311 of I-40 at the Painted Desert Visitor Center.

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The Painted Desert gets its color from the stratified layers of finely grained rock layers of siltstone, mudstone and shale left behind from prehistoric times. Iron and manganese compounds provide the various shades of color. (from en.m.wikipedia.org)

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Jeff, the dogs and I walk along the Rim Trail (a mile out and back) and are amazed at the colors of rock and terrain. From black to white to terra cotta, the desert reveals the limestone and volcanic ash washing down from the flat-topped mesas. The silica from the volcanic ash contributes an important layer of the petrified wood. The erosion of all the sediments from wind and water create the badland dry terrain of the forest. (from en.m.wikipedia.org)

The picture below does not do justice to the steep drop-off at the end of the pebbled walkway brightly highlighted in the bottom left of the photo.

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I am standing on the rim of the plateau.

Below lies black basalt deposited by volcanoes between 5 and 16 million years ago. This hard basalt is known as the Bidahochi Formation. Acting like an umbrella, it shelters this region from the effects of weather and erosion. (from plaque on trail)

I hope you enjoy the following pictures of the Painted Desert Rim Trail. Pinyons, junipers, and shrublands sit atop volcanic ash to decorate the landscape.

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The rim trail takes us to the Painted Desert Inn.

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This lodge and national historic landmark overlooks the Painted Desert and serves as a museum and book store today. Designed in the Pueblo Revival Style of architecture, the Civilian Conservation Corps built the complex from 1937 – 1940. The murals below were painted by Hopi artist, Fred Kabotie, during 1947 and 1948. (from en.m.wikipedia.org)

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The inn closed its doors to overnight guests in 1963 and was scheduled for demolition in the 1970s. Public protests prevented this, however. In 1987 the building became a National Historic Landmark. (from en.m.wikipedia.org)


 

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