Petrified Forest National Park was declared a national monument in 1906 and a national park in 1962. It is really two parks in one. In addition to the prehistoric petrified forest which is its namesake, part of the painted desert is included in the northern portion of the park. Also in the Park are the Painted Desert Inn, a National Historic Landmark, and the ancestral puebloan village of Puerco Pueblo. The Park has a north and south entrance. My suggestion is to start at the north entrance (exit 311 off Interstate 40) and drive the park road to the south entrance at U.S. Hwy 180. You can stop at the Visitor Center and Painted Desert Inn, loop through the Painted Desert, cross I-40, visit Puerco Pueblo just south of the Rio Puerco, travel through the Petrified Forest, and visit the Crystal Museum on the way out. Tah Dah! On one of my trips to Petrified Forest NP I chanced upon a Jaguar rally (cars not cats) at the Painted Desert Inn. I've included a couple of photos cause they're really beautiful autos.
The Painted Desert is an area of badlands in the four corners region. It extends from east of the Grand Canyon southeast into Pertified Forest National Park. The Painted Desert is composed of various eroded rock layers from the Triassic Period. These layers are rich in iron and manganese that color the badlands in shades of red, brown, and lavender.
Puerco Pueblo is a late (Pueblo IV) ancestral puebloan village of about 100 rooms. It probably had 200 residents at its peak around 1300 A.D. By 1380 it was deserted. Who knows why? I put more pictures in this section than I should have, but I have an interest in all things Anasazi.
The Petrified Forest is a large area of fossilized trees from the late Triassic Period. In addition to the logs, other fossil plants such as ferns and ginkos are found here. Prehistoric fauna such as phytosaurs are also present.
Thanks to the National Park Service and Wikipedia for background content.
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