Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Petrified Forest and Painted Desert

During our May vacation, we spent a wonderful day at the Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert in Arizona. It's amazing to see the geologic creations around us and appreciate God's power and creativity.

Checking out a tepee near the entrance
Our journey through the Petrified Forest started at the Rainbow Forest Museum. The boys started their Junior Ranger workbook here as well. The museum had some exhibits of petrified wood, fossils, and displays of prehistoric animals. We were also introduced to a film orienting us to the land's history. It's amazing to imagine how much petrified wood was here before people started taking it. It is illegal to collect or remove any petrified wood from the park now, although unfortunately some people still do.

Starting their Junior Ranger workbooks

Giant Logs Trail

Checking out the petrified logs
The petrified wood had remarkable colors. The many colors of petrified wood came from the minerals in the silica-saturated waters that were in this area. Iron, carbon, manganese, and sometimes cobalt and chromium produced patterns and blends of yellow, red, black, blue, brown, white, and pink. We were impressed by all these colors we saw in the logs.

Amazing colors

"Old Faithful" - almost ten feet across the base

Imagine how many logs were here before people started taking them.

We took a walk and checked out the Crystal Forest Trail. The trail had many beautiful pieces of petrified logs with crystals hiding inside. There used to be logs here containing glassy amethyst and quartz crystals, but people had removed them from the logs.
At the Crystal Forest Trail

The Jasper Forest contained bluffs which once had much petrified wood but now only had some wood strewn across the valley forest. Erosion of the high rocky bluffs left hundreds of petrified logs. You can still see logs stuck in the bluffs.
At the Jasper Forest

The Tepees looked amazing with their layers of colors. They are layered with blues, purples, and grays that were created by iron, carbon, manganese, and other minerals.
The Tepees
Newspaper Rock was a great spot to see hundreds of petroglyphs etched into the stone. Unfortunately, the area is closed below the cliff due to rock instability and defacement. But it is still quite a site to see.
Newspaper Rock


We visited Puerco Puebla, which is a large archaeological site that was occupied over 600 years ago. We were able to see the partially excavated pueblo and a few of the room foundations. It is neat to think of the past when people lived here, though it is not a welcoming environment, so I can see why they moved on.
Puerco Puebla

Partially excavated pueblo

More petroglyphs
We finally arrived at the Painted Desert Rim. There are actually many picturesce overlooks along the road providing spectacular panoramic views. Photos don't do it justice, although we tried to capture some of the beauty. The hills and their layered colors are much more beautiful in person.
Painted Desert

At the Painted Desert Inn the boys completed their Junior Ranger badges.
Taking the Junior Ranger oath

The boys with their first Junior Ranger badges.
This was a great trip for us. We learned a great deal about the geology and history of the land, as well as the ancient peoples and animals. For a visual learner, this is a great field trip. We'd recommend doing the Junior Ranger program as well, which gave our kids that extra push to learn and notice more than they may have without it.

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