Petrified Forest and Painted Desert Part II

Early families, searching for food and water, settled here from 1250 – 1380 to farm, build pueblos and trade with others. It is likely that drought forced these people to move northwest to join their fellow Hopis. What they left behind is quite remarkable: pottery shards, arrowheads, a solar calendar, and petroglyphs carved into stone. (from Park brochure)

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Look closely to find petroglyphs in the following pictures!

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The next stop on our amazing journey through time is called Newspaper Rock. My pictures do not do justice to capturing this area of over 650 petroglyphs.

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The Teepees area is captured below:

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This area of rock is one of the lowest, and therefore oldest, formations in the Park. (from plaque on trail)

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The Agate Bridge, pictured below, is a 110-foot long petrified log. The park brochure has a picture of a couple standing on the bridge in 1911. Visitors are no longer allowed to walk on it.

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“Water created Agate Bridge and will destroy it. The fossilized tree grew in a lush subtropical forest 217 million years ago. When this tree died it washed into a river and its quick burial by river sediments prevented decay. Volcanic ash dissolved in groundwater provided silica which reacted with the log and slowly crystalized it into quartz. Millions of years later, rivers and streams eroded massive layers of rock strata to expose this fossilized tree. Inevitably, water now carving the small gully under Agate Bridge will cause its collapse. The supportive concrete span, constructedin 1917, is a tenuous attempt at preservation. Water will always have its way.” (from plaque on trail)

Jasper Forest offers a sweeping view of petrified wood, although you need to look closely to see the pieces of logs.

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It is hard to imagine that… these badlands and grasslands were once a vast floodplain intersected with many streams. Tall conifer trees grew along the banks. Small dinosaurs, giant amphibians, and crocodile-like reptiles lived among the ferns and cycads. Eventually the trees fell and washed away into nearby floodplains and were buried under silt, mud, and volcanic ash. The sediment cut off oxygen and slowed the logs’ decaying process. Meanwhile the silica-rich groundwaters seeped through the logs, replacing the original wood tissues, and produced the colorful patterns of petrified wood we see today. The colors come from the different minerals in the silica-saturated water. Iron, carbon, and manganese create the swirls of yellow, red, black, blue, brown, white, and pink. (from Park brochure)

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The very end of the 28 mile drive, or beginning, depending upon where you start, is the star of the tour. You can get up close and personal with the largest concentration of petrified wood, but it is illegal to collect or remove any petrified wood from the Park. Commercial sources of the wood abound in nearby gift shops throughout the area since it is legal to collect specimens on private land outside the National Park.

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