Your Dollars at Work

smilosuchus skeleton cast

Your fee dollars make a difference! Protecting our natural and cultural heritage while providing a safe, enjoyable, and educational place to visit requires substantial funding. While your taxes offset the majority of costs to operate parks like Petrified Forest National Park, but they do not cover all the costs. As expenses to operate and maintain our parks rise every year, appropriated funding approved by Congress is unable to do it all. This is where your fees come into play and serve a crucial role in preserving these beautiful places.

In 2004, Congress signed the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) which allows the U.S. Department of the Interior to implement an interagency Fee Program in three of its agencies; the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You can read more about the National Park Service fee program and how your fees enable us to provide services to you here (Your Fee Dollars at Work).

Petrified Forest National Park is a fee park (fees page). The funds we generate by charging our fees is used to accomplish projects that the park has been unable to fund through yearly Congressional appropriations. When you pay your fee here, you are directly contributing to programs you will most likely benefit from on your visit here.


Recent projects at Petrified Forest National Park made possible by your fees:

  • New restrooms at the Rainbow Forest Museum
  • Trail work throughout the park
  • Funding a part of the Paleo Demo Lab (Petrified Forest’s Museum Demonstration Laboratory | Friends of Petrified Forest National Park) where you can go view and chat with our scientists who are preparing fossils for our museum collection (Check it out on your visit near the Painted Desert Visitor Center!)
  • Educational exhibits located in our visitor centers
  • Boundary fence repair and replacement
  • Stocking Park Maps, newspapers, and other informational handouts for visitors
  • Providing radio dispatch services
  • Junior ranger patches, booklets, and badges - Learn more about how YOU can become a Junior Ranger! (Be A Junior Ranger - Petrified Forest National Park)
  • New auditorium for park movie showings at the Rainbow Forest Museum
  • Rehabilitating trails and Interpretive waysides

Project Details

Recording Petroglyphs

Petrified Forest National Park's High School Education Program
Petrified Forest National Park has an active and dynamic education program. In an effort to reach out to older students the park received project money to design "standards based" on and off site activities for students in grades 9–12. The activities provide students with opportunities to learn about paleontology, geology and archeology while participating in real scientific investigations. The activities include:

Prospecting without collecting: Students learn how to read GPS, a compass and a topo map. Students assist the park paleontologist with the location of fossils for potential collection. Students record what they find in their notebooks as well as photograph and GPS their discoveries.

Reading the Rocks-Solving a geologic problem: This activity takes place in the park, between Agate Mesa and the Teepees, in conjunction with the paleontology lesson. Students learn how to sequence rocks and how to find fossil bearing layers by using clue cards with photos and info about the rocks and the historical data of a field site.

Archeological Site Investigations and Rock Art analysis: Students explore a real archeological field site, record surface discoveries and the impacts of erosion at a deteriorating archeological site and analyze rock art for signs of degradation. Students make maps of meter sections, use GPS, compasses, topo maps and digital cameras.

Classroom Activities: Nature Journaling, Making a museum collection, Ceramic Reconstruction, Trash is Treasure, Mapping your world-Making an archaeological map of your room, Field reports—following onsite trips.

Education Program faux paleo dig
A student “paleontologist” uncovers a cast of an armor plate from an ancient Triassic reptile in a simulated fossil dig at Petrified Forest National Park.


Improve Fossil Cast Collection for Visitor Education
Petrified Forest National Park was set aside in 1906 to preserve and protect fossil resources from the Late Triassic period. Included in those remains are the bones of a variety of reptiles and amphibians that were common between 230 and 200 million years ago. This project was for the creation of fossil casts to be used in education programs for the large number of school children that come to the park each year. The fossil casts allow students to uncover, view and handle items that are exact replicas of the original fossil material, greatly enhancing the educational experience by allowing them to be junior paleontologists. The use of casts lets students experience the material without damage to the fragile original specimens. Cast sizes range from approximately twelve inches (leg bones) to one inch (toe bones). This enhanced experience during education programs influences local and regional teachers and their students, allowing them to gain a better understanding of the fossil resources of Petrified Forest National Park. In turn, this creates informed stewards of Petrified Forest and other protected areas through increased resource protection and preservation as the result of education and awareness achieved through education. The mission of the National Park Service is incorporated into the program, fostering stewardship through education and understanding of the roles of the National Park Service and its staff.

Hoodoos in Devil's Playground, Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area
Hoodoos in Devil's Playground, Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area

Andrew Kearns-VIP/NPS

Wilderness Stewardship Plan
Petrified Forest National Park was one of the first units of the National Park Service to have designated wilderness. On October 23, 1970 Congress set aside 51,728 acres as designated wilderness in two separate areas of the park. The northern unit of the park provides visitors with unparalleled opportunities to experience vast, rugged landscapes, natural soundscapes, and superb dark night skies. The smaller southern unit has great scientific value with excellent records of the Late Triassic flora and fauna. The park completed a backcounty management plan in 1979, but it was outdated and did not adequately address protection of the area's five wilderness qualities that are essential to effective wilderness management. In developing the plan, the park chose to use the new Wilderness Stewardship Framework that articulated desired wilderness character which included a combination of biophysical, experiential, and symbolic ideals that distinguishes wilderness areas from other land.

The planning process used a combination of workshop and public comment to develop a plan that would monitor wilderness character to identify desired conditions and standards based on wilderness values. It was successfully because the park was able to draw on a variety of subject matter experts and interested parties to assist the park. Funding provided by the program was essential for the completion of the project.



Interpret Biological Resources on New Lands for Visitor Enjoyment
In 2004 Congress authorized the expansion of Petrified Forest National Park. The park was mandated to provide direction for visitor use on the new lands. In order to make critical decisions regarding visitor use on these expansion lands, park managers must document the existing biological resource conditions. This includes inventory for threatened and endangered species and/or species of concern. This project provided for surveys of biological resources that will provide information for production of reports, brochures, and species lists of resources in this area. This project focused on the 9,000 acres of recently transferred Bureau of Land Management acres in the northeast portion of the expansion.

Agate House
Agate House

Andrew Kearns-VIP/NPS

Conduct Condition Assessments of Archeological Sites
Petrified Forest National Park contains over 700 archeological sites spanning 13,000 years of human occupation. Many of the sites were discovered and documented in the early 1920s and 1930s. The project allowed the park to revisit and conduct condition assessments where the sites lacked reliable information. Archeologists relocated the sites and identified threats, disturbances and deferred maintenance needs for each sites. The park developed recommendations for periodic monitoring, preservation and protection treatments. This project was important to develop baseline information that can be used to help preserve and protect our priceless heritage.

Last updated: February 19, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Petrified Forest National Park
P.O. Box 2217

Petrified Forest, AZ 86028-2217


928 524-6228

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