During our Route 66 travels through Arizona last summer I visited the famous Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. These two wonders have been on my bucket list for years and they’re definitely worth seeing. The Petrified Forest is the only national park in our country that protects a section of Route 66.
The Petrified Forest National Park, which has one of the world’s largest deposits of petrified wood, encompasses the badlands of the Painted Desert, archeological sites and 200-million-year-old fossils. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation creating the Petrified Forest National Monument, and it became a national park in 1952. The park averages about 645,000 visitors each year.
The Petrified Forest is known for its fallen trees (coniferous, ferns, and gingkoes) from the Late Triassic Period 225 million years ago. It’s believed some of the trees reached 200 feet high when they were alive. The park has one of the largest concentrations of petrified wood in the world. Other places with petrified wood are North Dakota, Argentina, and Egypt.
Painted Desert Inn
The National Park also contains the historic Painted Desert Inn, which sits on a mesa overlooking the Painted Desert. The Inn was built in 1924 as a roadside hotel called the Stone Tree House by Herbert David Lore (the name came from the petrified wood used in its construction). In 1935 the National Park Service purchased it and the surrounding land. The Inn was redesigned in the Pueblo Revival style by architect Lyle E. Bennett. The Civilian Conservation Corps supplied the labor. In 1987 The Painted Desert Inn became a National Historic Landmark.
View out the back of the Painted Desert Inn
Inside the Painted Desert Inn
The Painted Desert encompasses over 93,500 acres and stretches over 160 miles. It begins about 30 miles north of Cameron, Arizona near the southeastern rim of the Grand Canyon and extends all the way to the Petrified Forest about 26 miles east of Holbrook, AZ.
Photos don’t do justice to the breathtaking scenery and the vast emptiness that stretches to the horizon in all directions. I can only imagine what early travelers thought when they came upon the apocalyptic-looking badlands that seemed more like a planet from outer space than earth.
I’m wondering how many western historical authors have mentioned or used the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert…or perhaps the Painted Desert Inn in the plot of a book. Have you read a historical romance that mentions these places?