During the Triassic period two hundred million years ago, the area that is now Arizona was filled with towering trees and flowing rivers. When trees fell, they often landed in the waterways. Around the same time, active volcanoes in the region spewed ash that drifted into the rivers. Ash contains a chemical called silica, which the sunken logs absorbed. Over time this caused the stumps to petrify, or turn to stone. And traces of minerals such as iron and manganese turned the logs’ rock centers different colors.
Millions of years later the rivers in the area dried up, exposing the petrified logs. To protect the ancient trees, the U.S. government turned part of the region into a national park in 1962. Today this 200,000-acre park receives around 600,000 visitors, who come to gawk at these rocks.
Take a Hike
Stone stumps aren’t the only cool attraction at Petrified Forest National Park. Walking along the park’s trails, visitors can see hills made of bluish clay and the remains of a dwelling built over 600 years ago by the Puebloan peoples. Hikers might also come across tiger salamanders, prairie dogs, ornate box turtles, and other animals that inhabit the park. Talk about taking a walk on the wild side!