Petrified Forest National Monument - History
The north end of the Petrified Forest is marked by the Painted Desert and the south end by the Rainbow Forest. Located in eastern Arizona, the entire park is 93,533 acres and includes five different forests! You can visit the Blue Mesa, Jasper Forest, Crystal Forest, the Black Forest, and the Rainbow Forest.
The Petrified Forest has the worlds largest and most colorful concentration of petrified wood which preserves the mineralized remains of Mesozoic forests. The Mesozoic Era is the third era of geologic time and includes the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. These periods are characterized by the appearance and extinction of dinosaurs. Scientists estimate that the Petrified Forest remains belong to the Triassic period, which means they are between the ages of 248 and 206 million years old!
So what exactly is petrified wood and what makes it so special?
First of all, you must know that no standing petrified trees can be seen in the Petrified Forest National Monument. All of them are lying on the ground or are still embedded in the earth. Secondly, petrifaction is a process of fossilization in which dissolved minerals replace organic matter. In this case, the wood from the ancient trees have converted to stony replicas of their former selves known as petrified wood. The prefix petri means rock or stone.
Because of the uniqueness of the pieces of petrified wood, and with the influx of visitors due to the transcontinental railroad, people began pillaging the forest. Finally in 1895, the Arizona territory legislature petitioned Congress for the area containing these fossils to be a National Park, affording the rest of the petrified wood protection from such vandalism.
The Petrified Forest was officially designated a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt on December 8, 1906. It wasnt until December 9, 1962, however, that it gained National Park status as our nations 31st addition.
Source: National Park Service, U.C. Berkeley