Petrified Forest National Park Things to Do

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    by Yaqui
  • Things to Do
    by Yaqui
  • Things to Do
    by Yaqui

Most Recent Things to Do in Petrified Forest National Park

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    Pioneers of Paleontology~The Tepee Area

    by Yaqui Updated Oct 6, 2013

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    The Tepees!

    The plaque reads: Petrified Forest is a laboratory where scientists study not only the fossil record, but the records of earlier discoveries by naturalists and paleontologists.

    Interest in the area’s fossils goes back to 1853, when a U.S. Army expedition discovered the Black Forest in what would become the park’s northern section. Later, at the request of General William Tecumseh Sherman, two petrified logs from that area were acquired for the Smithsonian Institution.

    Conservationist John Muir collected fossils and named some of the park’s “forests” in the early 1900s, when he was living in nearby Adamana.

    Annie Alexander and a companion discovered some of the first fossil reptiles and amphibians in 1921. They brought their findings to the attention of Charles L. Camp, who went on to spend nearly a decade studying the fossil vertebrates of the area.

    These scientists are just some of the paleontological pioneers who laid the foundation of current studies into the park’s treasure trove of fossils. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    Changing in Climate ~Blue Mesa Area

    by Yaqui Updated Oct 6, 2013

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    The herpetologist wrote in her hournal as the whiptail lizard slithered off into the bunch grass. She was checking traps set the day before, buckets that held live reptiles for researchers to discover. Petrified Forest is best known for its fossils, but biologists explore an equally impressive modern ecosystem. The back of her neck prickled and the biologist looked up. Sometimes visitors were curious, watching her work. Today, it wasn't people who watched her; it was a female pronghorn. The elegant animal protectively moved closer to her twin kids. The herpetologist watched with appreciation as the deer-like animals spun on their delicate hooves and raced away. They are the fastest North American land mammals and seemed bent on proving it to her today.

    Not all visitors or reseachers are just interested in the ancient worlds. Blue Mesa reminds us that climate and ecosystems change. Once part of the supercontinent Pangaea, this area was located near the equator in the Late Triassic Epoch. An ancient river system wound through a tropical landscape, lush with trees, shrubs, ferns, and cycads. As the continents broke apart and moved to their modern location, the climate changed. Today, this is a shortgrass prairie, dominated by dozens of species of grass, shrubs, and seasonal wildflowers. Animals including pronghorn, prairie dogs, bullsnakes, and red-tailed hawks thrive in this arid grassland. There is a sublte beautiy to the modern grasslands environment.

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    Blue Mesa Trail

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    A very beautiful area with so many diverse landscapes.

    The plaque reads: Those unfamiliar with badlands sometimes believe that th eformations are merely piles of sand or mud. Badlands are actually rocks are relatively soft. The mudstone and claystones easily wear away under the ministrations of wind and water, the outer layer weathering into a crumbling suface. As you explore Blue Mesa, look for the scultural talents of wind and rain and the changes they hae wrought on layers of sedimentary rock.

    The Blue Mesa Trail is a one-mile walk into the heart of the badlands of Petrified Forest. Along the trail are signs that discuss some of the precesses that have changed and are still changing this sculptured landscape. Allow approximately 45 minutes to explore the landscape and savor the silence.

    Geologists inhabit scenes that no oone ever saw, scenes of global sweep, gone and gone again, including sea, muntains, rivers, forests, and archipelagoes of aching beauty rising in volcanic violence to settle down quietly and then forever disappear. ~ John McPhee

    This fragile land is easily eroded. Please do not leave the trail. Do not remove rocks or petrified wood.

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    People and Change~Blue Mesa Area

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    The plaque reads: With satisfaction, the paleontologist brushed away the last bit of debris from the delicately preserved fossil leaf. Embedded in the soft grey of the mudstone, the fossile was remarkable, beautiful in its detail. Blue Mesa is a treasure trove of Late Triassic Epoch fossils, including an amazing array of ancient plants. Glancing along the banded escarpment of the mesa, the paleontologist didn't see the landscape in the same way as most people. The researcher's eyes translated the sedimentary rock into an ancient landscape of a great river system.

    Change is not always caused by natural sources. Over the years, the boundaries of Petrified Forest have changed. In 1906, Petrified Forest National Monument was created by President Theodore Roosevelt, stating that,.....the mineralized remains of Mesozoic forest...are of the greatest scientific interst and value and it appears that the public good would be promoted by reserving these deposits of fossilized wood...

    The park boundary has ebbed and flowed according to changes in legislation. In 2004, President George W. Bush signed legislation to expand the park from 93,533 acres to 218,000 acres.

    Photo Caption: Exavation is allowed only by experience researchers with a permit from the park. Please do not harm or disturb the natural landforms.

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    The Changing World~Blue Mesa Area

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    A very unique area of the park. The plaque reads: In February of 2005, on his patrol of the park, the ranger noticed that something had changed. Pulling into the first overlook at Blue Mesa, he studied the closet ridge to the east. What was different? Realization struck and he quickly spread the word. One of the park's most photographed pedestal logs had fallen.

    Change happens, Ble Mesa is a superb example of this fact. Look for the logs on the ridge still eroding from the sandstone. As the harder petrified wood protects the sedimentary rock beneath, errosion forms pedestals beneath the fossile trunks. Eventually, the elements become too much for the narrowing pillar of rock. All or part of the suspended log breaks away and tumbles to the ground. The pedestal log that fell in 2005 broke into pieces, which can be seen on the flanks of the ridge below. As you explore Blue Mesa, look for the agents of change.

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    Agate Bridge

    by Yaqui Updated Oct 6, 2013

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    The plaque reads: Centuries of scouring floodwaters washed out the arroyo, or gully, beneath this 110-foot (34 meter) petrified log to form Agate Bridge. The stone log, harder than the sandstone around it, resisted erosion and remained suspended as the softer rock beneath it washed away.

    Enthusiastic visitors fascinated by Agate Bridge worked to preserve it through the establishment of Petrified Forest National Monument in 1906. Conservationists felt this ages old natural bridge needed architectural support and in 1911 erected masonry pillars beneath the log. In 1917 the present concrete span replaced the masonry work.

    Current National Park Service philosophy allows the natural forces the create unusual feature to be left in its natural state. Eventually the natural forces that created Agate Bridge will cause it to fall with or without its supports. For your safety, and to help preserve the petrified log, please stay off the bridge.

    Caption: Masonry pillars were added to “support” Agate Bridge in 1911. Caption: Agate Bridge as it looked about 1900. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    Jasper Forest's

    by Yaqui Updated Oct 6, 2013

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    The plaque reads: The petrified wood strewn in the valley below was once encased in the bluffs around you. When erosional forces removed the softer rocks, the petrified wood tumbled and accumulated on the valley floor. Once filled with fallen logs, Jasper Forest was plundered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by commercial collectors seeking petrified wood to sell as souvenirs.

    Completion of the nearby railway line in 1882 provided early travelers – and relic hunters – easy access to Jasper Forest. Many tons of Jasper Forest’s petrified wood were carried away, piece by piece, in railway cars. Outrage against Jasper Forest’s devastation contributed to the establishment of Petrified Forest as a National Monument in 1906.

    “Wood thieves” once carried out petrified wood by wagon, buggy, and cart, sometimes using dynamite to break large logs into smaller pieces to expose hidden crystals. A mill to grind petrified wood for abrasives was built at the nearby railroad settlement of Adamana in 1892. Though the mill never operated, the appetite for commercial spoils remained.

    “…we had filled our hats with chips….Reached Forest #1 [Jasper] about noon, resorted our collections…Oh such a time as we did have deciding which part of the forest to leave and which part to pack out.” -from the diary of Grace Spradling, 1917, recording her hike from Adamana through the petrified forests. Although these areas were then protected by Petrified Forest National Monument, travelers continued to remove petrified wood.

    Federal law prohibits the removal of any petrified wood, other fossils, or artifacts from these protected lands. Stiff penalties will be imposed upon violators. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    From Wood to Stone ~ Crystal Forest Area

    by Yaqui Updated Oct 6, 2013

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    This a great area for all to enjoy because the paths are paved.

    The plaque reads: Approximately 225 million years ago, during the Triassic Period, a floodplain existed here – littered with fallen trees. Periodic flooding buried the logs beneath layers of silt. Over time, silica-laden waters filtered through these deposit and petrified the wood by encasing the trees’ organic material with minerals.

    Iron oxides give petrified wood its distinctive red, yellow, and orange hues; manganese oxides produce blues, purples and deep blacks, while the original carbon produces the shades of gray. Centuries of erosion washed away concealing sediment deposits to expose these remnants of Triassic woodlands.

    Could today’s woodlands become petrified forest of tomorrow? Geologic forces similar to those of the Triassic period still shape the Earth’s surface, and may create the preliminary conditions for future petrification.

    Side Caption:
    The processes that created petrified wood here ceased millions of years ago. Petrified wood and other fossils are irreplaceable resources to be cherished undisturbed. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

    Photo Caption:
    Forest devastation after the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens in the state of Washington provided at least two requirements for the petrification process – wood and silica – producing sediment (in this case volcanic ash).

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    Triassic Landscape ~ Crystal Forest area

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    It is hard to imagine that this area once was a lush landscape and how amazing the trees are still here.

    The plaque reads: The dry plateau lands of this region today are far different from the tree-littered floodplains of 225 million years ago during the geologic period called the Triassic. Imagine a forested Triassic land where crocodile-like phytosaurs inhabited the shores, and other carnivorous reptiles hunted on land. Visualize stormy floodwaters carrying Triassic trees here to the floodplains, where, over time, the trees would petrify.

    What happened to the animals of the Triassic? Did their disappearance allow the dinosaurs – which were then just appearing – to ascend to dominance? Through the study of fossils such as those found here, scientists hope to solve the mystery of the Triassic species’ disappearance and find clues to explain other “mass extinctions” that have occurred through time.

    Do not disturb or remove petrified wood or other fossils in Petrified Forest National Park. Leave these traces of our earth’s history for future visitors. Please report any theft or vandalism to park staff. Erected by Petrified National Forest Services.

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    The Crystal Forest Area

    by Yaqui Updated Oct 6, 2013

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    Crystal Forest Loop Trail is a (.75 mile/1.2 km) paved walkway that you can see petrified logs renowned for their crystals, such as glassy amethyst and quartz crystals.

    The Plaque Reads: Step into the Crystal Forest and enter a mysterious world of ancient trees turned to stone. The brillantly colored remants of an earlier geologic age invite you to visualize a changing world. Thoughtless visitors have removed most of the crystals that gave Crystal Forest its name. Please save what's left for future visitors, and report any theft or vandalism to park staff. Crystal Forest Loop Trail (.75 mile/1.2 km) Walk the paved Crystal Forest Loop Trail to see petrified logs renowned for their crystals.

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    The Flat Tops

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    There is not pull out area to stop your car, but from the Long Logs Trail you can see the Flat Tops easily. What beautiful views of the landscapes from the Shaded covering. A great area to see the Flat Tops.

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    Long Logs Trail

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    This is a very scenic with some beautiful stark landscapes. That day, it was about 90, with some breezes and beautiful big blue sky.

    The plaque reads: The Long Log Trails leads you through one of the greatest concetrations of petrified wood at Petrified Forest National Park. This pileup of logs suggest an ancient log jam created by prehistoric rivers. A half hour stroll along the Long Logs Trail gives a lasting impression of this amazing stone wood.

    A trail leads to Agate House, a partially reconstructed Inidian pueblo built of petrified wood.

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    Stephen Tyng Mather July. 4,1867 - Jan.22,1930

    by Yaqui Updated Oct 6, 2013

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    This plaques reads: He laid the foundation of the National Park Service. Defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be dveloped and conserved unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good that he has done.

    Erected by National Park Services.

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    Rainbow Forest Museum ~Visitor Center

    by Yaqui Updated Oct 6, 2013

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    Depending on which way you enter the park, the Rainbow Forest Museum is located near the south entrance from the park. This facility offers many wonderful exhibits and a 20 minute orientation movie. One of their exhibits is hands on. There is a small gift shop and restrooms.

    Best to use the restroom here because there other restrooms were closed due to renovations.

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    Giant Logs Trails

    by Yaqui Written Oct 6, 2013

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    Located behind the Rainbow Forest Museum is a Easy 0.4 mile paved trail with stairs, which passes many of the park's massive log, known as "Old Faithful." It doesn't seem like much, but it is nice to get out of the car to stretch you legs. The scenery is stark, but it does has its own kind of beauty.

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Petrified Forest National Park Things to Do

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