As we were looking for things to see around Mississippi and Louisiana, we encountered a listing for something that we had never expected: the Mississippi Petrified Forest. We have visited the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona many times, but this was the first we had heard of a Petrified Forest in the eastern US. It is, in fact, the only petrified forest east of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi Petrified Forest is a National Natural Landmark but it is privately owned and does not receive any Federal or State funding. The land was farmed until 1962 when it was bought by the Schabilion family for the purpose of preserving the petrified logs as they were found.
We paid our entrance fee and received a nature trail guide which corresponded to numbers along the trail. The guide did a good job of explaining how the logs were made: buried before they rotted, the silica in the sandy soil gradually replaced the wood with minerals until the logs turned to stone. Most of the petrified logs are not natural to the area, but were carried as driftwood by floods or glaciers 36 million years ago.
Petrified logs are everywhere in the small area of the forest. None of them have been moved and so they sit in the places where erosion uncovered them. Some are being reburied by the same process. Although trees and grass help to stabilize the hills, every rainfall moves the soil around. You can see logs that are still partially buried in the sides of the hills. One piece of petrified wood is called “The Frog” and weighs almost 15,000 pounds.
We began and ended our visit at the “Earth Science Museum” which had a nice display of petrified wood, fossils, minerals and gemstones. It was a very interesting place to go and a nice hike through the Mississippi Petrified Forest.