Ginkgo Trees of Stone

2018 West, Road Trip, Washington

At some point more than ten million years ago here in what is now Washington State, the hills and valleys were lush with ginkgo, cypress, walnut, hickory, maple and many more kinds of trees when cataclysmic lava flows covered the landscape and turned into basalt. Previously felled trees protected by water or mud escaped incineration by the lava and over ensuing millions of years silica from the basalt petrified the wood buried deep in the basalt. Then the Missoula Floods and finally road construction in the 1920’s revealed a cache of petrified logs in the hills above the Columbia River north of Vantage, Washington. In 1931 the trove came to the attention of college professor George F. Beck. Once he and his students identified that among the preserved specimens was some oh so rare petrified ginkgo it became apparent that this site should be set aside as public land for the preservation of the specimens and the education of the public. In the 1930’s the CCC developed some of the infrastructure including part of the building that is now the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park Interpretive Center with many impressive specimens of petrified logs and some pictographs on basalt rescued from nearby cliffs before that area was flooded. Nearby is the interpretive walk with several in situ specimens carefully protected behind heavy grid. Just a few miles south we’re enjoying the campground on Wanapum Reservoir.

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