Don’t miss Petrified Forest National Park’s Puerco Pueblo ruins and Newspaper Rock, where you’ll see evidence of the Indians who lived in the area as early as 1100 A.D. It is thought that Puerco Pueblo may have been home to about 200 people and contained over 100 rooms. The petroglyphs (rock carvings) are as mysterious as they are well preserved—but what do they mean? Are they calendars, depictions of daily life, or merely decorative? Maybe just ancient graffiti? No one knows for sure.
Crystal Forest and the Long Logs Trail are the best and largest concentrations of petrified wood in the park. The petrification process preserved each tree a little differently, depending on the environmental conditions when it fell, so no two pieces are alike. Some of the logs look so real you’d think they were only recently cut down— the wood grain has been preserved in detail and the pieces are as symmetrical and sharp as those made by a saw blade. Other logs barely resemble wood at all, especially the prettier pieces. Some of the colors are so amazing you’d swear the logs were man-made and had never been a living tree. The rainbow effects come from traces of iron, manganese, carbon and chromium during petrification.
If you want to take home a little petrified wood as a souvenir, be sure to buy it at a gift shop. Removal of petrified wood (or any natural or cultural object) is strictly prohibited and punishable by federal law. You’ll be reminded of this over and over again on park signs and in brochures, but for good reason. Over the years, most of the petrified wood that was originally found in this area has been damaged or stolen. So unless Mother Nature reveals more through erosion, what you see now is all there will ever be. Some tourists who weren’t so law abiding in the past have returned their pilfered souvenirs to the park service after experiencing a string of bad luck! Why take the chance? Just follow the motto: “take only pictures and leave only footprints.”
Petrified Forest National Park Visitor Information (928) 524-6228
Entrance fee for private vehicles is $10 (good for 7 days)
Paved park road is suitable for larger RVs, even with a toad.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com