Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Painted Desert day hike

While in Petrified Forest National Park last week, I went on a several hour, ranger guided, cross-country day hike in the Painted Desert badlands.

The "dunes" look like sand but are actually a soft crumbly clay-like rock.

mixed with hard rock

the main objective of our day hike was to see these petroglyphs (click on picture to wander around a larger image of the rock art). There is evidence of human history in the area for more than 10,000 years. Pictographs and petroglyphs disappear over time and most are much more recent, roughly in A.D. 300 - 1900 range, depending on where you are and what you are looking at.

after wandering around for a couple of hours, time to climb back up to the rim...

catching my breath, or pausing for another landscape picture?

Ranger making sure he isn't leaving any fossils behind...

looking down at several petrified logs, one has been undercut and now forms what they call an agate bridge (since the log is now quartz agate). As an aside, there was once logging done of the petrified logs, since they could be ground up to make good abrasives. That was one of the factors in putting aside part of this area in 1906 as a National Monument to preserve for future generations to enjoy. [biting tongue to avoid inserting modern day political commentary here... *smile*]

and back at the top, none the worse for wear although I appear to be taking on some of the surrounding coloration...


  1. and before anyone asks, nope, we didn't see either of the Mars rovers zipping around our feet... :)

  2. LOL mars rovers...

    I see the red and I think of red ochre, which was special to the red paint peoples, a native american culture that lived 10-12,000 year ago. Then there is a big gap of several thousand years and then the Alqonquins appear in the fossil record here.

    So did your guide know what the hieroglyphs said?

    I see those mounds and I think of giant ants or the prairie worms they are trying to prove still exist...what caused the formation of the badlands?


  3. Another enjoyable tour! Thanks for sharing your experiences and pictures. Beautiful rich colors on those dunes and the petroglyphs are fascinating!

  4. Tree -- apparently this area used to be many millions of years ago, part of a big floodplain with tall conifer trees and a variety of large crocodile-like reptiles. After the forest fell it was covered by silt, mud, and volcanic ash which cut off oxygen and slowed decay allowing silica in groundwater to seep into logs and replace the wood tissue with silica which then crystallized into quartz. So they say in the brochures.

    The badlands contains layers of sandstone, clay, siltsone with different amounts of iron and various minerals making up the pallete of colors...

    Diane -- thanks, I do like petroglyphs too, more to follow!


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