• Jasper Forest is magical in twilight, particularly the logs on stone pedestals

    Petrified Forest

    National Park Arizona

Explorers and Settlers

Spanish Inscription

Spanish Inscription


Standing at the edge of a colorful sea of badlands and mesas, a Spanish explorer named the region El Desierto Pintado-the Painted Desert-or so the story goes. No mention was made of petrified wood, but the Spanish of the 16th through 18th centuries were focused on finding routes between their colonies along the Rio Grande and the Pacific Coast. Within Petrified Forest National Park, Spanish inscriptions have been discovered from the late 1800s, descendents of some of the earliest non-American Indian settlers in the region.
Mollhausen Sketch 1858

Whipple Expedition of 1853
Routes continued to be explored after the Southwest became part of U.S. territories in the mid-1800s. U.S. Army Lt. Amiel Whipple, surveying for a route along the 35th Parallel passed down a broad sandy wash in the red badlands of the Painted Desert. Impressed with the deposits of petrified wood visible along the banks, Whipple named it Lithodendron ("stone tree") Creek, the large wash that bisects the Wilderness Area of the park today. The Whipple Expedition was the source of the first published account of the petrified wood in what would become Petrified Forest National Park.

US Camel Corps Reenactor

U.S. Camel Corps Reenactor


E. F. Beale and the U.S. Camel Corps
One of the strangest sights at the edge of the Painted Desert must have been a camel caravan. An experienced explorer, E. F. Beale was hired by the U.S. Government as a civilian contractor to build a wagon road along the 35th Parallel. Between 1857 and 1860, Beale made several trips from his ranch at Fort Tejon, California, building and improving the road. On his first journey, Beale was in charge of a government experiment in desert transport that included camels and their drivers. While Beale became convinced of the camels' value, the government declared the experiment a failure. The wagon road lives on, still visible in spots across the Southwest, part of which is on the National Register of Historic Places.


1899 in the Chalcedony Forest


Pioneers and Homesteading
Did you know that many of you were following the 35th Parallel? Interstate 40 is only the most recent thoroughfare along this route. In the late 1800s, settlers and private stage companies followed this ancient corridor. Homesteaders developed ranches that took advantage of the rich grasslands that would forever after bear the mark of grazing. In 1884, the Holbrook Times noted: ...The whole northern portion of the territory seems to be undergoing a great change....Our plains are stocked with thousands of cattle, horses and sheep.... Cattle would graze in Petrified Forest until the mid-20th century and ranches are still some of the park's best neighbors.

Did You Know?