Friday, July 25, 2014

Petrified Forest of the Black Hills - 7/25/14

I have no idea why the whole idea of petrified wood is so fascinating to me, but for some odd reason it is. Therefore, I could not pass up the opportunity to visit this 25-acre site loaded with petrified trees that was first open to the public in 1929.

First, this is how you get there.
  • If using a GPS to navigate, be sure to use the address of the Elk Creek Resort (8228 Elk Creek Rd., Piedmont, SD, 57769 (off of 1-90 West). It appears to a very nice RV/cabin/tent resort with lovely pool, hot tub, etc.
  • The Petrified Forest is accessed via the entrance road to the Resort (and I believe is owned by them). Just follow the signs to the Petrified Forest.
  • The cost is $7/adults; $6/seniors.
We paid our entrance fee then proceeded to the museum to see the 20-minute video that describes the geological history of the Black Hills. While the video is not a slick presentation, we found it to be very informative. In fact, I wish I had seen this when we first arrived in this part of the country. It is a great recap of the billions of years of geologic history of the earth in terms the lay person (me!) can understand. The Black Hills date back to 120 million years ago in the Cretaceous time period.

There is also a small museum that has numerous exhibits of petrified trees and even animals, as well as other interesting information regarding geology of the region, fossils, rocks and minerals. We did not spend that much time in there, but below is a photo of a petrified turtle!

In short, from this video we learned that petrified wood is the fossil that remains of living trees. The wood is transformed from living tissue to rock through mineral replacement that takes effect after the tree has fallen and been buried by sediments in a swamp for many years. During the transformation the cellular structures remain in tack making the newly formed rock in its original tree shape. Millions of years ago, this area was like the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia (but with dinosaurs roaming around). Most of the petrified trees here are, therefore, cypress.

We loved the self-guided tour through the forest. A map and factoids on each spot identified along the trail were provided when we paid our admission fee. Unlike so many other locations in this area, it was pet-friendly and we were able to take Sadie along with us!

Note the white sandy soil in here. The area was an inland sea multiple times during previous millions of years. Petrified wood.

Originally found in this standing, upright position.

Longest petrified log in the forest (broken into pieces, but still about 100' long). These were originally huge (120') cypress trees.

Heaviest single piece of petrified wood (4.5 tons).

The "wood pile" of 931 pieces of petrified wood gathered in the area.

Close up of petrified wood in the pile.

These are just rocks along the trail (not petrified anything), but they were beautiful as well!

View of the Black Hills area from the ridge of the petrified forest.

We loved the trail and self-guided tour through the forest. It ends at The Rock Shop where we browsed for a while. Very interesting specimens for sale there of petrified wood as well as other rocks and minerals. The place could definitely use a face-lift, but overall, we enjoyed this our visit very much. It doesn't look very impressive upon arrival, but once you are on the trail you will love it!


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