Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
© Ian Shive/Tandem Stills + Motio
Party in the petrified forest. Petrified Forest National Park
The burliest lumberjack with the best-oiled chainsaw couldn't slice the massive 'timbers' found in Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona. So why are these giant stone logs segmented in such symmetrical rounds, as if they're ready to be split into firewood?
Each of these smooth splits occurred in an instant as the brittle quartz cracked under geologic pressure. But each of those instants was eons in the making. First, about 225 million years ago, the trees were buried by torrents of river silt. Then mineral deposits slowly seeped into the trees and replaced the decaying wood. Much later, around 60 million years ago, the entire Colorado Plateau began shifting, generating crushing forces that finally divided the petrified logs.
The fossilized trees, surrounding land, and the many plants and animals that live here have enjoyed protection since December 8, 1906, when President Theodore Roosevelt created Petrified Forest National Monument. It was designated as a national park in 1962, lending still greater protection.