Thirty four years ago, my then nine year old nephew along with his mom (my sister, Karen, three years older than me) and his dad, Fred, came for a visit. They had been to Spokane before, but on this visit, Matt was old enough to help mom and dad plan the visit across Washington State; they planned to go to Seattle after visiting us.
Matt had studied up on Washington State, and he was excited to tell us all about the state symbols, including the bird, the flag, the flower, and more. This put us adults to shame since I couldn’t recite any of those facts, and I still don’t know any except for the flag.
He was very excited to stop at the Gingko Petrified Forest on the way to Seattle. I hadn’t heard of this forest, and to this day, I have never stopped in. Every time Thom and I drive to Seattle, I see the sign for Gingko Petrified Forest, and I remember 9 year old Matt. I think 2019 will be the year for me to finally see the Gingko Petrified Forest!
The Gingko Petrified Forest State Park is also a registered National Natural Landmark. The petrified trees were found in 1932. Fifteen million years ago, these Gingko and sequoia trees were thriving, living trees. The now arid desert of Central and Eastern Washington, the Gingko Petrified Forest Interpretive Center informs visitors, was once a wet area dominated by swamps, shallow lakes and forests. The area, during the Miocene Period, was like a jungle! The volcanic action in Southeastern Washington brought lava floods across the landscape. From that action, the waterlogged trees became petrified. Wikipedia also states that there are more than 50 varieties of trees—not just gingko and sequoia.
According to the park’s website, the petrified tree remains are considered one of the most diverse fossil forests in North America. There are some rare specimens of the Gingko trees in the “forest”. If you visit the park, visit the Interpretive Center that has more than 30 varieties of petrified wood as well as a piece of ancient gum tree. From the Interpretive Center, you can also view the Columbia River, Sentinel Gap and surrounding Ice Age flood-carved basalt. Behind the Interpretive Center are also many petroglyphs carved in the basalt rocks from the Wanapum tribe of Indians that lived in the area.
In1927, the Civilian Conservation Corps built a “trailside museum.” Walk along the Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail, a one-mile loop, two miles west of the Interpretive Center, and see more than 20 petrified logs in their original settings. Also notice an exposed section of prehistoric Lake Vantage. You will also find ice-rafted erratic rocks (rocks that were moved within glaciers) left from the Ice Age flood waters thousands of years ago. Also, enjoy seeing golden eagles, sage thrashers, Say’s phoebes and many others. Be sure to drive to the overlook to view more petrified trees.
When I started researching for this post, I looked up the Washington State Symbols—the Washington State gem is petrified wood! Believe it or not, Washington State has 21 state symbols.
Sources: Petrified Forest website, Washington State Legislature, Seattle Times article, Hard facts on Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, September 7, 2008, iceagefloods.blogspot, November 2013, Wikipedia.