Petrified Forest National Park
Known for its ancient, fossilized trees, Petrified Forest National Park is part of a larger geological region that includes the Grand Canyon. It was established as a national monument in 1909 and later a national park in 1962. The trees date to the Late Triassic Period (225 million years ago) and are scattered throughout the park. Other fossils found from that period include plants and animals, including early dinosaurs. The park's climate is not a desert but rather a semi-arid landscape consisting of short-grass prairies and grassland. It snows here during the winter and rain falls during the annual monsoon season. There are three visitor centers, including the Rainbow Forest Museum, which is located on the southern end of the park. The museum features an 18-minute film about the park and exhibits that display petrified tree, plant, and animal fossils. Information and backcountry permits can also be obtained here.
Backstory and Context
In the 16th century, Spanish explorers became the first Europeans to enter park area. Further exploration and eventual settlement took place in 19th-century as the Southwest became U.S. territory. Homesteaders arrived in the park in the late 1800s, attracted by the grasslands on which cattle could graze. Grazing occurred until the 1950s and some ranches remain outside park boundaries.
The park features several sites that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and one National Historic Landmark (the Painted Desert House Inn)
Photos: National Park Service