THE STORY OF PETRIFIED FOREST
The most wondrous display of petrified wood in the world and some of the most colorful parts of the Painted Desert are included in Petrified Forest National Monument, in northeastern Arizona. Singular in its vivid and varied colors, the petrified wood in this area has long attracted visitors from many countries. Within the monument are six separate "forests," with great logs of agate and jasper lying on the ground and countless broken sections, fragments, and smaller chips forming a varicolored ground cover.
The area is a part of the Painted Desert of northern Arizona, a region of banded rocks of many hues, carved by wind and rain into a landscape of fantastic color and form. Here and there are beds of shale containing perfectly preserved fossil leaves of plants of a remote age. Occasionally the bones of giant amphibians and reptiles are washed from their burial places in soft rock.
Many Indian ruins and petroglyphs tell of the folk who lived here long before America was found by white men.
The first known report of the "stone trees" was made by Lt. Lorenzo Sitgreaves, an army officer who explored parts of northern Arizona in 1851, soon after Arizona was acquired by the United States from Mexico.
The petrified forest remained almost unknown, however, until the settlement of northern Arizona began in 1878 and the Atlantic and Pacific (now Sante Fe) Railway was completed in 1883.
During the following years, the existence of the petrified forest was threatened by souvenir hunters, gem collectors, and commercial jewelers. Entire logs were blasted open in search for the amethyst crystals that were often found in hollow logs, and much agate was carried away to be used in making jewelry. Alarmed, the citizens of Arizona, through their territorial legislature, petitioned Congress to make the area a national reserve so that "future generations may enjoy its beauties, and study one of the most curious....effects of nature's forces."
The erection of a stamp mill near Adamana, intended to crush the petrified logs into abrasives, created a threat demanding immediate action. This most imminent danger led to special investigations by the U.S. Geological Survey, with the result that the Federal Government withdrew the lands from entry and provided statutory protection of the fossil trees to prevent their damage or removal. Decisive action by public-spirited men of vision thus saved an irreplaceable national treasure.
Finally, on December 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt created Petrified Forest National Monument by proclamation, under authority granted only a short time before in the Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities.
Last Updated: 14-Aug-2009