I had been dying to see this place for YEARS! I find it fascinating that these trees lived 225 MILLION years ago. Just incredible!
So what happened?!
About 220 million years ago (the Late Triassic period), Arizona was a tropical wetland with lush greenery and streams and rivers. During heavy rains, the waterways would flood, sweeping the fallen trees into the sandy floodplains. The logs were washed into an ancient river system. They were buried quick enough and deep enough by massive amounts of sediment (volcanic ash) and debris which were also carried in the water. Oxygen was cut off and the decay slowed to a process that took centuries.
Minerals absorbed into the wood (from the volcanic ash which turned into quartz crystals) over thousands of years and crystallized within the cellular structure, replacing the organic material as it broke down over time.
Fast forward to about 60 million years ago, increased erosion unearthed the petrified logs and of course… some dinosaurs too!
Much of the petrified wood comes from an extinct conifer tree but at least nine species of fossil trees from the park have been identified and all are extinct.
Could you imagine northeast Arizona looking like modern day Costa Rica?! Well, 225 million years ago… it did!
This park is one of my very favorites. It blows my mind. If you’re in Arizona, make sure you stop and take the drive through. It goes along old Route 66 – more American history! 🙂