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Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park copyright map by Alan Eastep

PO Box 2217
Petrified Forest, AZ 86028

Phone
General Park Information
(928) 524-6228

WELCOME to the Petrified Forest National Park!

With one of the world's largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood, multi-hued badlands of the Painted Desert, historic structures, archeological sites, and displays of over 200-million-year-old fossils, this is a surprising land of scenic wonders and fascinating science.

The Petrified Forest was discovered thousands of years ago by American Indians and was inhabited by groups of them for varying lengths of time. More than 650 American Indian sites have been found in the park, from one-room shelters to a 100-room pueblo near the Puerco River.

When the Spanish began their explorations of the Southwest in 1540, they did not find permanent residents within the Petrified Forest. However, roving bands of Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo people did roam through the area. Ruins of a small group of Navajo hogans also shows that some of the Navajo may at one time have lived in what is now the park.

While seeking a route for the first transcontinental railroad, the 1853 Whipple Expedition discovered: "Quite a forest of petrified trees...They are converted into beautiful specimens of variegated jasper...Fragments are strewn over the surface for miles." - Lt. Amiel Whipple. It was Whipple that named Lithodendron ("stone tree") Wash within the Painted Desert.

You may not think of camels when envisioning the Painted Desert, but in 1857 camels were brought into the area as part of a bold experiment. Army Lt. Edward Beale plotted a route for a wagon road that passed through the Painted Desert. Camels were brought in as an experiment in desert travel. Even though they could go for long periods without water, their sand-adapted hooves were no match for the rocks and bentonitic clays of the Painted Desert.

Not many years after Petrified Forest National Monument was created in 1906, Herbert Lore, an area resident, began to build an inn and restaurant overlooking the Painted Desert. The Painted Desert Inn, or "Stone Tree House," served visitors from 1924-1936. 

But after a park expansion included the area of Painted Desert completely surrounding the inn, Lore sold his property to the park. Bringing in the Civilian Conservation Corps to provide the labor force, National Park Service architect Lyle Bennett transformed the inn into the unique Pueblo Revival style building still seen today.

Traveling on Route 66, visitors first viewed the Painted Desert, often making a stop at the Painted Desert Inn. Run by the Fred Harvey Company from 1947-1963, the good food, famous Harvey Girl service, and local handicraft items were as much of an attraction as the petrified wood and scenic views. 

The Fred Harvey Company brought in their architect, Mary Colter, to add new life to the inn. She enhanced Bennett's design elements with bright paint, large picture windows, and indoor wall murals she procured from Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.

Petrified Forest National Park has many places significant to American history and culture. Some are buildings, such as Painted Desert Inn and Agate House, and some are landscapes, such as the Painted Desert and the Rainbow Forest.

Did you know....

  • within Petrified Forest National Park, nine sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including places such as Puerco Pueblo and archeological districts such as the Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs.
  • Painted Desert Inn is a National Historic Landmark, one of only 3 percent of the sites on the National Register.
  • Petrified Forest is the only national park to protect a section of Historic Route 66.
  • the Civilian Conservation Corps made significant improvements to park infrastructure, much of which is still in use today.
  • evidence shows human travel and occupation through what is now a national park for over 10,000 years.
  • the Painted Desert is a sacred place for many American Indians.

Places to Picnic

  • Chinde Point
  • Rainbow Forest

Did You Know?
Petrified wood at Petrified Forest National Park is almost solid quartz, weighing in at 168 pounds per cubic foot. It's so hard, you can only cut it with a diamond tipped saw!

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