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The Unlikely Gem Of Washington: Gingko Petrified Forest

When you think of Washington State you might think about the lush green forest, tall mountains and beautiful photos many post on their social media. Fact is many think of only these features of the state, however they are unaware of the division of the West’s lush greenery and the East’s dry lack of vegetation.

I for one was on the same page as most when I traveled to the Pacific Northwest. I was under the impression from the beautiful mountains of Montana and Idaho which I had passed through that I would be entering an arid dry area as I passed into the state. Boy, was I surprised!

When I found the Gingko Petrified Forest on the map, my mind instantly raced thinking I would be entering back into the lush green surround. However this forest is unlike any that I had previously seen. It reminded me more of the Petrified Forest located in Arizona, dry and arid.

But for those in there area visiting the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, you will find that it is a very different kind of beautiful. Wildlife abounds and an ecosystem which is covered in sagebrush and petrified logs overlooks the Columbia River.

Considered to be the State Gem by many, the forest is intriguing because its celebrated petrified logs were created by lava flow through the areas which entombed trees and preserved them uniquely.

A quick visit to the Interpretive Center you will find an expansive collection of trees found in the forest. Each very unique in their patterns and textures, the specimens serve as an educational base for the forest.

I was shocked to see how beautiful the petrified trees could be. The cross sections of each were glossy and brilliant and you could see patterns emerge from tree to tree. In addition, this center housed a lot of information about the lava flows and a first glimpse on the eastern coast about the rich history of the tumultuous past which has carved the Washington landscape.

Just outside the center, a grouping of petroglyphs has been relocated from a wall just down the Columbia. Moved to protect and preserve the glyphs these were by far one of the closest looks I have had in my travels of native drawings. Which went to raise the question to me of just how these particular glyphs were drawn in an area which now is near submerged in water.

How has the landscape changed over time? How were they discovered? Why were they located where they were and how did other natives find them?

Just beyond the Interpretive Center is located the Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail. Over 3 miles, over 21 petrified specimens can be found. Heavily protected you can get a glimpse however will not be able to get hands on.

If hands on is more your speed, I recommend visiting the Rock Shop just outside of the gate of the interpretive center. You can’t miss it, there are large colorful dinosaurs everywhere drawing you in. Amongst these are massive stumps which you can touch and get photos with before moving inside and potentially purchasing your very own petrified piece to take home with you.

Visiting locations like these, hiking on the trails, reading the literature, it does bring you closer to the history and culture of an area. However following a visit it does leave a lot for you to explore further through research.

It is through this research that I discovered that this particular location was officially founded in 1927 when geologists were called to the area following highway workers discovering the site. The Civilian Conservation Corps came to further excavate and found trees dating back 15.5 million years.

Following several years of discovery the park was officially opened to the public in 1938 and was named the Gingko Petrified Forest in large part to the discovery of so many logs which were Gingko based.

While again, this is not your typical Washington adventure which might cross your mind. It definitely should be a stop on your list for the rich history it provides. A great place to pull off and check out some unique viewpoints you will vastly enjoy the stop.


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