Painted Desert, Petroglyphs, And An Ancient Rainforest In Petrified Forest National Park
We make good time from Amarillo. While we are on a mad dash to California, we do take a couple hours break to explore the Petrified Forest National Park.
When we pull off I-40 for Petrified Forest National Park, I expect to be looking at rocks. Yet, it takes us a while to get to the rocks. We are so distracted by the breathtaking views! The Painted Desert is result of the Chinle Formation. It is a mineral deposit from river beds over 200 million years ago, during the Late Triassic Period.
The vivid and dramatic layers of color typify specific times within this formation. The oldest member, the Mesa Redondo Member, gets its color from dark red siltstones deposited by floodplains between 225 and 227 Million years. In contrast, the Blue Mesa Member consists of grey, blue, purple, and green mudstones deposited approximately 220 to 225 million years ago. The Sonsela Member combines thick cross-bedded sandstone, blue, grey, and purple mudstones, and logs of the Rainbow Forest. These layers from 216 million years ago form cliffs and mesas such as those found in the Blue Mesa. The Petrified Forest Member features reddish mudstones, brown sandstone layers, and petrified wood 213 +/- 1.7 million years old. Finally, the Owl Rock Member consists of pinkish-orange mudstones from evaporated inland lakes 205 million years ago. Each of these members can be observed in different portions of the park.
Newspaper Rock boasts over 650 petroglyphs across multiple rocks left between 650 and 2,000 years ago. There is no linear story to be read. Instead, what remains is a collective heritage of many generations of ancestral Puebloan who farmed and hunted along the Puerco River.⠀Individual markings can be traced back to known familial, spiritual, and historic symbols.
An Ancient Rainforest
In the Petrified Forest National Park there is wood so ancient, it is not only rock, but originates from a time when Arizona was on the latitudinal equivalent of present day Costa Rica. Indeed, this is a tropical rainforest in the middle of a desert. The desert of Petrified Forest National Park was once a lush river basin. Looking for a tropical rainforest? This is what one looks like, 200 million years after the fact.