Most things that naturally occur can become petrified over time, but the sight of petrified wood is something of beauty, history, and wonder. In northeastern Arizona, just a short drive off US191 on highway 40, is the Petrified National Forest. The park covers about 146 square miles, encompassing semi-desert shrub steppe as well as highly eroded and colorful badlands in the Navajo Nation. The northern part of the forest is a gateway into the Painted Desert. From beautiful colored wood to beautiful stone, the properties of both aid the other in thier creation.
The vast landscape of the Painted Desert features rocks in every hue – from deep lavenders and rich grays to reds, oranges and even pinks. The desert is composed of stratified layers of easily erodible siltstone, mudstone and shale of the Triassic Chinle Formation. These fine grained rock layers contain abundant iron and manganese compounds which provide the pigments for the various colors of the region. Thin resistant limestone layers and volcanic flows cap the mesas. Numerous layers of silicic volcanic ash occur in the Chinle and provide the silica for the petrified logs. An assortment of fossilized prehistoric plants and animals are found in the region, as well as dinosaur tracks and the evidence of early human habitation.
The Painted Desert is not where this adventure stops; it is so close to the Grand Canyon National Park, you would be a fool not to press on to see the largest canyon in the US. Geologists say that over the last several million years the Colorado river has carved the canyon to what it is today
Three Beautiful Sights, one amazing state..
It is not the deepest canyon in the world (Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal is far deeper), nor the widest (Capertee Valley in Australia is about 0.6 mi/1 km wider and longer than Grand Canyon); however, the Grand Canyon is known for its visually overwhelming size and its intricate and colorful landscape.
While writing this I wondered to myself “How Long Does It Take For Wood To Petrify”. I googled that very question and came up with an article by John D Morris that was titled just as such. His explanation below about the difference of petrified would in Yellowstone National Park vs those found in the Petrified National Park I found most interesting.
“In the first type of petrification, the wood decays in a hot, silica-rich environment. As each molecule of wood decomposes and is carried away, it is replaced by a molecule of silica. Eventually the replacement is complete, with the mineral impurities in the silica being responsible ”
“The other type of petrification involves the total infiltration of the porous wood by silica-rich water. The silica (or in a few cases calcite, or a combination of both) plugs up the pores, preventing complete decay. This allows individual cells to be remarkably well preserved, and in many cases the tree ring pattern can easily be seen. The petrified trees in Yellowstone Park are of this type, with tree rings readily visible.for an array of beautiful colors in the final product. This type of petrified wood can be polished, and often becomes an object of incredible beauty. Once silicification is complete, there is no organic material remaining, but since on occasion the light and dark portions of the tree’s growth rings may decay at different rates, hints of the tree rings may be preserved if the minerals present change over time. Many of the petrified trees found in the Petrified “Forest” of Arizona are of this type.”
“Wood can also be petrified in field settings. During one field experiment, researchers dangled a block of wood down inside an alkaline spring in Yellowstone Park to see what effect this hot, silica-rich environment would have. In just one year, substantial petrification had occurred. I recently read an advertisement in a magazine for real “hardwood floors.” The company was petrifying wood commercially. The point is, it does not take long ages to petrify wood, it just takes the right conditions.”