This update covers the start of the 28 mile tour. We started at the Rainbow Museum Visitor Center and the tour ends in the beautiful Painted Desert. You can see a rainbow of colors mixed with incredible petrified wood along the drive.
Our first stop was the Crystal Forest Trail. The trail is about .75 miles round trip that loops through rolling grasslands and badland formations highlighted by a stunning collection of petrified wood that once held glassy amethyst and quartz crystals.
During the late Triassic Period some 225 million years ago, much of Northern Arizona was a heavily wooded tropical floodplain. Period flooding and erosion interspersed with volcanic activity from the south and west carried sediments and ash downstream, settling over fallen trees in this area.
In some cases trees were buried quickly and deeply enough to deprive them of oxygen, thus significantly slowing the natural decomposition process. Over time, ground water dissolved silica from volcanic ash into the porous body of fallen, buried trees. This solution formed quartz crystals that filled hollows and cracks in the logs, eventually petrifying them by encasing and replacing the trees' organic material with minerals. The wood's brilliant colors come from impurities in the quartz, such as iron, carbon, and manganese.
We read on the trail that most of the crystals have been stolen and taken away before the park became a national park. They have signs posted all over the park not to remove anything now. They even have a gate on the way out where they stop all cars and have the right to check inside to make sure you are not taking anything out with you. They waved us on, but some cars were being searched. This is a beautiful trail with outstanding views not to be missed if you visit the park.
Check back later for more from our tour of the Petrified National Park and Painted Desert.