Since Ken and I were children we have both been intrigued by stories and photos of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. Today was our day for first-hand experience in the Petrified Forest National Park.
We first stopped at the visitor’s center to watch the 20 minute video and pick up information.
We then began the 28 mile scenic drive.
The beginning of the drive is in the Painted Desert.
It’s said that on a clear day, you can see for 100 miles here!
In this section we visited the old Painted Desert Inn was built over an even earlier Stone Tree House as a Civilian Conservation Corp project in 1937. Today it serves as a museum and bookstore with patios out to more beautiful vistas.
The interior is maintained in much its original form with furniture and equipment from when it was an active inn back in the 20’s and 30’s. There are several Indian murals by Hopi artist, Fred Kabotie, that were done in 1947.
The Petrified Forest National Park contains some of the best examples of petroglyphs (made by chiseling) and pictographs (painted) of the Ancestral Pueblo peoples dated back to estimated 1000-1350 AD. These peoples were the ancestors of the Hopi and Zuni tribes.
After our visit to the desert in we finished our drive through the Painted Desert on the north side of I-40.
On the south side of I-40 the drive continues through the Painted Desert but the colors and formations change.
The area below is aptly named, The Tepees. The colored layers in this section is really striking.
We stopped to walk around Puerco Pueblo which is an ancient 100-room pueblo thought to have been inhabited in about 1250AD by as my as 1200 people.
It is near this pueblo that some of the most detailed petroglyphs are located.
It’s at this point, about halfway in the 28 mile drive that we began to encounter the first obvious remnants of the Petrified Forest.
We stopped at various points along this part of the drive to get closer to the petrified logs.
Unfortunately, over the years, a lot of the petrified wood has been pilfered. These objects are now considered archeological treasures on national park land and collection or removal is considered a federal crime that can be punishable by imprisonment.
The Rainbow Forest Museum is located near the end of the scenic drive.
Here’s Ken getting to know some of the prehistoric beasts that existed at the same Triassic Period petrified trees found in the park.
I found the pictorials in the museum for helpful in understanding the evolution of these creatures from this period some 200 million years ago. This was so long ago that they were considered the ancestors of dinosaurs.
The graphic below also made it more obvious how the logs ended up without limbs in the formations they’re found in today, considering that this desert area was once a large open waterway.
So there it is, the end to another wonderful day of exploring!