Last Stop in Arizona – Petrified Forest

Petrified Wood

Petrified Wood ©2013 Bo Mackison

On my second day of travel, I headed north and east so I could visit one of my favorite destinations – Petrified Forest National Park. Not only am I fascinated by the petrified wood – from tree chunks to tiny pebbles – dotting the barren landscape, I also love to wander throughout the rooms of the Painted Desert Inn, a National Historic Landmark, dating from the 1920s. (To be featured in the next post!)

Chucks of Petrified Wood

Chunks of Petrified Wood ©2013 Bo Mackison

Petrified wood is deep with color, patterns, even textures. No longer wood, these relics are fossils, once ancient wood turned into rock crystals.

The petrified fossils are scattered about the park, but they are protected by federal laws. There are reminders throughout the park, reminding visitors to look, not touch.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park ©2013 Bo Mackison

Petrified rocks are available for sale in nearby towns, specimens mined from privately owned land. Of course, I had to stop at my favorite petrified rock shop, Jim Gray’s in Holbrook, Arizona.  There is something ancient and sacred about a carrying a small piece of rock in my pocket that is a 100 million years old.

So I added a few last-chance talismans to this year’s Arizona collection of trinkets.

Painted Desert

Painted Desert ©2013 Bo Mackison

The Petrified Forest is only a small part of the Painted Desert, an irregularly formed crescent that stretches from western Arizona to central New Mexico.

Pale purple, gray blue and off white striations in the rock at the Petrified Forest add interest to the badlands scenery. These colors came from iron deposits in places with no oxygen, typically submerged in stagnant water in prehistoric marshes. The deep red layers indicate a dry and hot climate in the presence of oxygen. The various layers date from 50 to 200 million years ago, time enough for oceans and swamps to turn to desert a few times over.

Painted Teepees

Painted Teepees ©2013 Bo Mackison

I drove through the park, and stopped at every pull-off and a few extra middle-of-the-road photographs. Happily, the park had few visitors on an early morning in late April, and so there were few cars to worry about. And then I drove on the entrance ramp that leads directly from the Visitor Center to I-40 and headed towards New Mexico!


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.    She is traveling cross-country and blogging about her travels — whenever she is in a motel with internet and awake, concurrently.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Wow! I think petrified wood is so amazing…what a beautiful world that still holds mystery…

  2. This is the perfect time of year to visit there. Enjoy your trip!

  3. Amazing, Bo. I hope I can get out that way someday. Your images are so beautiful that I wish I could step right into them. 🙂

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