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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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)