Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park contains the remains of one of the most unusual fossil forests in the world. It was set aside as a historic preserve in the 1930s, after highway construction crews working on the Vantage Road unearthed what proved to be some of the rarest forms of petrified wood ever found. Located one mile north of Vantage, near the geographic center of Washington State, the park is now a registered national natural landmark.
Trees of Stone
The “trees of stone” are a reminder of the fact that central Washington was once vastly different from what it is today. Million of years ago, during what geologists call the Miocene Period, the region was wet and humid, dominated by swamps and shallow lakes surrounded by forests. Species of both broadleaf and upland conifers ended up buried in the mud of small lakes and pools. Later, a volcanic fissure in southeastern Washington sent floods of molten lava across the Columbia Plateau, leveling the landscape and destroying the standing plants and trees. However, the waterlogged, mud-covered trees were left intact. When lava from the “Ginkgo Flow” contacted the water, it formed pillow basalt that further protected the trees. Entombed in basalt, the wood slowly began a chemical transformation. As Ann Saling explains in The Great Northwest Nature Factbook, buried wood usually decays, but when the groundwater contains enough silica (picked up from volcanic ash) and other minerals, the minerals penetrate the wood in a process known as petrifaction. Some wood remains, visible under a microscope, but most is replaced by silica. Other minerals and compounds in the groundwater also percolate through the wood, adding brilliant color patterns. Over time, the wood becomes stone.
To Log This Earthcache:
Go to the following listed waypoints and write down the required information. Send your answers to me via email. If your answers are correct, you may log a Find. Logs posted with any of the answers or with the wrong information will be deleted.
Waypoint 1: N46 57.285 W119 59.271 This is the site of the Gingko Petrified Forest Interpretive Center. When was this area covered in lava and how many square miles were covered? There is a display here of several petrified logs. Be sure to go inside the interpretive center to learn more about the Ginkgo petrified forest.
To get the remaining answers, you will need to drive about 2 miles west on the Old Vantage Highway to an Interpretive Trail. There you will hike on a well groomed trail to see logs of various species partially unearthed and available for public viewing. From the parking area, hike to waypoints 2, 3, and 4 and gather the required information. Please stay on the designated trails. Total round trip distance is 1.5 miles.
Waypoint 2: N46 56.975 W120 02.258 What is the species of this petrified log?
Waypoint 3: N46 56.932 W120 02.411 What is the species of this petrified log?
Waypoint 4: N46 57.056 W120 02.452 What is the species of this petrified log?
Please note the following park rules and other warnings:
1) Pets must be on a leash at all times.
2) Bicycles are not allowed on the interpretive trails.
3) Bring your own water to the hiking trail.
4) No collecting petrified wood on any state park land.
5) This is rattlesnake country. Look and listen for snakes and be cautious.
Enjoy your visit at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest!