Images from Petrified Forest National Park.

January 4-9, 2003

Established as a National Park in 1906 and covering over 93 thousand acres Petrified Forest N.P. is located in northeastern Arizona. Known for having one of the largest deposits of petrified wood on earth, the park also boasts a large area of the Painted Dessert, strikingly beautiful with its rainbow layers of sedimentary rock.

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The multi colored layers have been revealed because of the rapid erosion in this area. The steeper slopes lose up to a 1/4 inch of soil per year. The different colors are due to the different rates at which the sediments were laid down. Slow buildup allows aluminum and iron oxides to concentrate in the soil creating the red, orange and pink colors. Fast buildup such as a flooding removes oxygen from the soil resulting in the grays blues and purples.

 

Scott chose to capture many of these colors in his rendition of the painted desert seen here.

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200 - 250 million years ago this area was located very close to the equator on a super-continent known as Pangea, which broke up and shifted into the continents as we now know them. Evidence of this in fossilized form lies in the sediment layers of what is called the Chinle Formation within the Petrified Forest N.P. The sedimentation is also responsible for the petrification of the trees. As the trees absorbed the silica, they became preserved. When the sediment around them was eroded, the were once again revealed. The trees were broken into their current state as the ground surrounding them was lifted and moved. It would appear that they have been cut by humans, but that's not the case. They are made up mostly of quartz which is hard and brittle and breaks up under great stress. Scott painted us a nice oil on board interpretation of this scene.

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Another view of petrified wood. The crystaline structure of the quartz runs lengthwise in the tree and is the most brittle. That's why the trees tended to snap while the earth moved over the last 2 million centuries. Leaving them looking as though someone had cut them.

South of the Blue Mesa is the Crystal forest area where the largest concentration of wood was located... until it was dynamited and most of the quartz and amethyst shards were hauled away.

Located centrally in the park is Blue Mesa. A one mile long hiking trail will take you into an otherworldly landscape. The trail descends 100 feet through a series of switchbacks, and most visitors stay up top to enjoy the view, giving a hiker a chance to experience the peace and quiet of this beautiful area.

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