Geology geeks, unite! Petrified Forest National Park is its own master’s degree in earth science. Sitting at the southern edge of the geologic wonderland, also known as the Colorado Plateau, Petrified Forest is about as diverse as it gets for those who look deep into the desert scape.
Even for the less geologically inclined, once you learn that red soils evolved from fluctuating water availability and blue and green soils came from consistently watered areas that starved the minerals of oxygen, it’s nearly impossible to not see the place through a geologic lens. It becomes easier to picture how this currently dry, often barren, space was once Shangri La for dinosaurs.
While the sedimentary and volcanic mazes are intriguing, the true calling card of this park is the fossil collection. With 225-million-year-old petrified woods, triassic age fern imprints, and fossilized Chindesaurus footprints, the environment of this northern Arizona park proved ideal to store moments in time for perpetuity.
A certain fossil collector who lived nearby was influential in the initial protection of the Petrified Forest as a national monument in 1906. This dude by the name of John Muir had moved to Arizona in 1905, hoping the arid air would benefit his daughter’s ill health. After a lifetime of exploring the Sierra and traveling the world, he was enchanted by the desert landscape and lobbied Teddy Roosevelt for designation.
On December 9, 1962, Congress upgraded Petrified Forest National Monument to a national park. Happy anniversary!