Sunday, April 9, 2017

Petrified Forest and the Big Painted Desert

Today we were off to the Petrified Forest.  First we went into the Visitor’s Center, where there was a dinosaur exhibit.  During the Triassic period, back when Arizona was part of Pangea, this was a sub-tropical forest.  It was very wet.  That period of time saw many alligator like creatures eating the early dinosaurs.  The river system at that time was enormous.  But, things changed and dried out.  This was our favorite dinosaur.  He’s covered in plates on his back that protected him from the evil proto-alligators.  That’s a flying dinosaur sitting on his back.  Since things were wet, trees that fell over sunk into the muck.  In the anaerobic environment, trees sucked up water and silica from volcanic ash, and over time crystallized into quartz.  Different minerals created the multiple colors seen today.


We had planned to spend some time doing the 2.5 mile loop of the Long Logs and the Agate House, but the wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t stand it.  I felt like I was in a wind tunnel.  We bailed on that trail.  Here is some petrified wood.


Then it was on down the road to see the Agate Bridge.  People used to walk out on this and stand on it.  The Park Service has put an end to that practice.  It’s a petrified log spanning a gulch


The ranger at the visitor’s center told us that if we could only do one thing, we should do the walk through the Blue Mesa.  He was right. 


This is the trail into the formations.  Different colored layers represent deposits made at different times.


The brown at the bottom of the photo consists of pebbles from ancient stream beds that ran through the area.  They washed down hill and became part of the mix.


The rock erodes faster than the petrified trees.  As material washes away, petrified trees become visible.  In the center of the picture are tree sections.


After you leave Blue Mesa, you’re half way to the other end of the park, which is the Painted Desert section, so we went there.  It, too, is just beautiful.








This is the Painted Desert Inn.  It was built in the 1920s out of petrified wood.  Then in the 1930s it was remodeled and covered in a stucco-like substance.  It closed during WWII.  After it re-opened Fred Harvey took over running it.  Mr. Harvey was quite the entrepeneur.  He hired young women to work in his railroad hotels, inns and restaurants.  Approximately 5,000 “Harvey Girls” went west to make a living and eventually marry. 




The murals were done by a Hopi painter.


The remodeling was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  They made the light fixtures from scratch, by hand.  It was a useful program, unemployed males were provided with a small salary and they learned how to do stuff.


A ceiling detail.


Today exceeded expectations.  We really enjoyed the Blue Mesa and the Painted Desert.  Tomorrow we are up and out early, going to Chinle to look at Canyon de Chelly.


  1. We need to go back there. It was really cold and rained on us when we visited so we didn't hike as much as we wanted.
    The only hiking trail in Canyon de Chelly is a good one. Be sure to stop at all the overlooks on the way there. A beautiful place!

  2. I'm glad you got to the Blue Mesa! That was my favorite part of the park. I had low expectations for this NP, but was pleasantly surprised like you...

  3. Love the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert but we thought Canyon de Chelly is fantastic. We took the jeep tour with a guide who grew up in the canyon. Sooo interesting.

  4. Sorry the wind was so bad, but your photos are great. And you learned a lot more about the area than we did when we drove through in 2006!