Abstract Design in Sand and Rock. The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, Holbrook, AZ.

Posted on November 4, 2014


DSCN1260The great Southwest is full of places that make you feel like tiny pebbles on the mountain of time.

One of these sites is the Petrified Forest National Park, east of Holbrook, Arizona.

This area visually illustrates the long journey of our earth through time – a journey through countless years of history almost beyond comprehension.

The Petrified Forest contains the remnants of trees flourishing here over 200 million years ago. Between then and now, the continents moved to today’s position, the region was shifted upward, and a changing climate turned what was once a tropical environment into today’s semi-arid grassland.

The Petrified Forest stood in a floodplain crossed by many streams.  Tall, stately conifer trees grew along the banks and crocodile-like reptiles, giant amphibians and small dinosaurs lived among a variety of plants and animals known only as fossils today.DSCN1252

As the trees aged and fell, swollen streams washed them into adjacent floodplains.  A mix of silt, mud and ash from distant volcanoes buried the logs, cutting off oxygen and slowing decay.

Silica-laden ground water seeped through the logs, replacing the original wood tissue with silica, causing them to petrify.

DSCN1255The 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.

Humans also inhabited the Petrified Forest. Evidence of dwellings has been found, as well as pottery shards and petroglyphs that continue to tell their story today.

Mappers and surveyors of European descent first discovered the area in the mid 1800’s. Then came the pioneers, ranchers and sightseers.

With sightseers came the market for souvenirs, and the removal of some of the wood for commercial ventures. Local residents soon realized the petrified wood supply was not endless, leading to President Teddy Roosevelt declaring a portion of the forest a National Monument in 1906.DSCN1256

Congress has since added 100,000 acres to the park, which now also contains 50,000 acres of the adjacent Painted Desert that encompasses over 93,500 acres and stretches over 160 miles.

DSCN1243The Painted Desert is a long expanse of badlands hills and buttes in a rainbow of colors ranging from lavenders to shades of gray with vibrant colors of red, orange and pink.

Created by volcanoes and upward thrusts of the earth’s crust, the area was once completely covered alternately by both fresh and sea water.

DSCN1249The sediments left behind, stacked in layers, create this natural canvas of unimaginable color and design that changes hourly with the bright Arizona sun.

Posted in: Travel - Arizona