Petrified Forest National Park
PO Box 2217
Petrified Forest, AZ 86028
General Park Information
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
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
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
- 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!