Monday, November 19, 2007

Tawa Point Trail in the Painted Desert-Petrified Forest National Park

The Tawa Point and Rim Trail is at the north end of the Petrified Forest National Park. It is a 1.2 mile round trip along the rim and is also a botany trail, the local plants identified with signs.

Widespread through north Arizona is the Painted Desert, the colorful eroded clays and shales of the Chinle layer. Besides the color and the lack of anything growing on it, the Chinle layer gives up some dinosaur fossils and petrified wood.

There are some whitish layers visible that are volcanic ash and silt. Steps are visible along some of the clay slopes. These are caused when the surface gets wet enough for the material to slump down the slope. Along the surface of the trail there is a stable layer of volcanic agglomerate that provides a richer surface for growing plants.

At the west end of the trail is the historic Painted Desert Inn, built in the 1930s and now a visitor center.

One of the highlights inside the Inn is the large mountain lion petroglyph that is something of a mascot for the park. On the west side of the Painted Desert Inn there is a trail head for visiting the Painted Desert Wilderness area.

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