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Petrified Forest

Coelophysis—One of the earliest dinosaurs from the Late Triassic was a carnivorous biped that roamed southwestern U.S. including Petrified Forest National Park.

Coelophysis—One of the earliest dinosaurs from the Late Triassic was a carnivorous biped that roamed southwestern U.S. including Petrified Forest National Park.

A lesson plan from the Arizona Department of Education

Earth is a system of land, air, water, and living things. Living things depend on each other and this system to survive. Over millions of years, the Earth has changed many times. Land has moved. New mountains were formed. Many plants and animals became extinct, which means that they no longer exist.

Over 225 million years ago, the Earth looked very different. The land in the northern part of Arizona used to be close to the equator. It was warm and rainy. There were many rivers. Forests and tall trees covered the area. Logs in the Petrified Forest

Today that area looks very different. It is dry most of the year and the rivers are gone. Winters are cold. Tall trees no longer grow in this area.

This area has a very special type of forest. It is different from most of the forests you will ever visit. All of the trees are made of stone! How can that be?

The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona is not full of living trees. It is full of fossils of extinct trees. The environmental conditions changed millions of years ago and the trees could not survive. Over time, all of the trees died and became extinct.

Some of these trees turned into a special type of fossil, called petrified wood. Even though the fossils look like parts of the tree, they really aren’t wood. The wood has been replaced with minerals called quartz.

The petrified trees are not the only fossils found in northern Arizona. Fossils from over 200 different types of extinct plants and animals have been found in this area. Some fossils came from sharks and dinosaurs.

Adapted from: The National Park Service

Standards Connections: Grade 3

Science: Strand 4 Concept 4 PO3 and Strand 6 Concept 1 PO4

Reading: Strand 1 Concept 4 and Strand 3 Concept 1

Make a virtual visit to the park-courtesy of artist-in-resident Tony Garbasso. Click on the picture and use your mouse to navigate. 

See more virtual visits at the Petrified Forest National Park website.

Petrified Forest Videos

Triassic Waters
Mud to Museum