The Museum Demonstration Lab at the Painted Desert Visitor Center is where you can see one-of-a-kind fossils from the park being carefully prepared, curated, and cared for by park staff. Peek through the window to see fossils being prepared for research. Watch a live microscope feed on the TV as paleontologists remove rock from fossil bone. Chat with scientists via a two-way, hands-free speaker. There's always something new to discover! The Museum Demonstration Lab has been THE primary place for park staff to share new scientific discoveries with visitors, often showcasing fossils before they go on exhibit or into collections. The diversity and exceptionality of fossils in the Museum Demonstration Lab and direct interaction with paleontologists is what makes it a must see for visitors coming to Petrified Forest.
Humans have been living and working in the region for at least 13,000 years. Petrified Forest National Park protects hundreds of archeological sites. The record of human occupation ranges from small campsites to villages where hundreds of people lived. Phenomenal rock art sites are scattered throughout the park. Ongoing archeological research by the park and partners is aimed at developing a better understanding of how people hunted, farmed, and lived in this demanding environment. By studying these sites and the artifacts they contain—like ceramics and stone tools—archeologists can get a picture of the past lives of the inhabitants of Petrified Forest. The ongoing expansion of the park has added almost unlimited research potential to help answer these questions. A continuing research effort is underway to locate, study, and interpret the archeological history of the expansion of Petrified Forest National Park. Research over recent years has found hundreds of new archaeological and historic sites and dozens of new and exciting rock art sites.
The high quality grassland, riparian, and badlands habitats in the park support a large variety of plants and animals. Most of the animals are very secretive, but hopefully you'll get to see a large mammal grazing, a tenacious desert plant, or maybe a reptile, bird, or interesting insect that calls the park home. If you have a plant or animal sighting that you want to share with us, take a photo and consider submitting an iNaturalist observation (create an account at www.inaturalist.org). The park's biologists can't be everywhere—we'd love to know what you're seeing!
Petrified Forest National Park is a world class scientific laboratory for study of fossils from the later part of the Triassic Period (about 227-205 million years ago). The fossil record at the park preserves everything from fossil pollen and spores to some of the earliest dinosaurs, and allows for reconstruction of several ancient environments through time. The recent addition of more than 40,000 acres to the park has resulted in the discovery of many more fossiliferous layers including a new locality where the bones of numerous fish, giant amphibians, and reptiles reflect life in an ancient lake setting. Ongoing paleontological and geological research, both through park staff and our academic partners, is reconstructing the history of life during this period at a degree of detail never before attempted, including determination of climate change (temperature and precipitation rates) and its effects on biotic (animal and plant) extinctions.
Last updated: March 26, 2022
Petrified Forest National Park
P.O. Box 2217