Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crystal Forest Trail at Petrified Forest

The Crystal Forest Trail is a 0.75 mile paved loop trail in Petrified Forest National Park in northern Arizona.

This area of the park was named for the many brilliantly colored pieces of petrified wood, though most have been removed by early souvenir hunters.

One of the interpretive signs along the trail explains the formation of petrified wood. Approximately 225 million years ago this area was a flood plain littered with fallen trees. Buried under layers of silt, the silica laden waters petrified the wood by encasing the organic material with minerals.

Iron oxides provide red, yellow, and orange colors, while manganese oxides produce blues, purples and blacks. Erosion in recent centuries is exposing these remnants of ancient forests. An interesting point is made that the Mt. Saint Helens volcanic explosion could be an event that starts the process for future petrified wood.
I walked the Crystal Forest Trail on a mild 55 F degree day in early March. This short trail is similar to the nearby Long Logs Trail but has fewer examples of long tree trunks. Another nearby overlook site is the Jasper Forest. From the rim area, tons of petrified wood is visible in the valley below.

The Jasper Forest was heavily mined of petrified wood following the 1882 completion of the Sante Fe railway line. The outrage at the uncontrolled devastation led to the 1906 establishment of the Petrified Forest National Monument.

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