These are not your typical trees. In fact, I don’t even know what one of these trees weigh! I’m pretty sure if I put my science brain to work I could have measured the circumference, length and calculated it based on the likely mineral content, but today I’m just going to remain in awe of these wonders.
Petrified Forest National Park is in Northern Arizona and is obviously named for the petrified wood found within its boundaries. Enormous blocks of these fossilized trees littered the ground with several large intact sections found together or even whole logs in some cases. The shear frequency of these fossils when you walk around the park can really numb you to the experience. I had to keep reminding myself that as I was hiking among the remains of trees that lived 225 million years ago!
This landscape that contains these fossils appeared very similar to an area near us, Drumheller. Eroded badlands with colourful stratification was all around us. In Arizona this landscape is part of what is known as the Chinle Formation. A geological layer that consists of softer mudstone, siltstone and sandstone. This easily eroded material creates a vista that is stunning and considered one of the richest deposits of plant fossils from the Late Triassic.
In science class I’m fortunate to teach about rocks, minerals and fossils to my students. I love the topic and to see so many fossils with such rich colours was breath-taking. While the majority of petrified food is quartz or silicon dioxide, a clear mineral, the fossil is mixed with impurities that provide the rich colours. Elements like copper, iron, chromium and manganese yield the variability of colours. On of the best parts about the park was the fact that the fossils were hands on! You could run, jump and touch everything. You couldn't however take any of the fossils home. That would be a Federal offence! We were able to find our own fossils by visiting the DoBell Museum outside the park and digging our own! The boys had so much fun digging in the dirt and we were able to fill a gallon pail after an hour.
This is our last stop in Arizona. Our next stop is an exhilarating one for us and one from our bucket list. If you’ve ever seen the movie Contact, I’m sure you can guess what it is.