LOOK: Yellowstone’s Astounding Petrified Trees
Last week we gave you the story of a row of "petrified trees" in Wyoming that turns out not to be petrified trees at all. They sure do look like it, but, NOPE!
One of the best places to see real petrified trees is in Yellowstone.
Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone National Park. This unique location harbors dozens of stately fossilized (petrified) trees: some upright, some horizontal.
A violent volcanic episode entombed these huge trees about 50 million years ago.
In the video below geology professor, Shawn Willsey walks the ridge and explains. (As you watch the video please pardon his sniffling. He had a cold).
The trees are obvious, especially the ones still standing.
50 million years ago the current Yellowstone volcano was not there. Other volcanoes to the east were the culprits, back then.
There was a chain of them, big suckers, shaping what we now call North America.
The outflow from those big eruptions landed and filled the Yellowstone area. Through rain, ice, and snow, the area built up until one day there was a massive mud and material slide.
That's what covered those trees.
Petrified trees form when minerals, including silica dissolved from volcanic ash, are absorbed into the porous wood over hundreds and thousands of years. The material then crystallizes within the cellular structure. Over time that crystallized material replaced the organic material.
Back then the climate was much warmer than we are used to today.
That's particularly interesting because the last glacial period (ice age) began about 100,000 years ago and lasted until 25,000 years ago.
Today we are back in another warm interglacial period.
There are petrified trees in Wyoming that are actually NOT petrified trees.
They sure do look like it.
In the Big Horn Basin near Worland, Wyoming three long tube shapes sit on top of sandstone.
They look like 3 petrified trees that fell over millions of years ago.
They look like they have tree rings and even petrified bark. So they are what they look like, right?
On his YouTube channel, Wyoming geologist Myron Cook drove out to the site to have a look.
In his video, which you can watch below, he breaks down what we are really looking at.
When it comes to nature and science looks are often deceiving.
It turns out that what looks like trees are actually made of the same sandstone that supports these structures. Plus a few other minerals might have become trapped in them along the way.
If they are not petrified trees, and they are mostly sandstone, how did they form? And why are they this tree-like shape? What's with the darker color?
Mr. Cook expertly offers two theories.
One shows how, over time, sediment builds in layers and hardens over time at the bottom of a river. Because rivers change directions, and through periods of flood and drought, the sediment begins to take shape as it builds layers in a "cement" like process.
Time passes and the climate continues to change as it always does, rivers come and go.
Eventually, this formation is far underground.
But erosion, over time, exposes it again.
There are other formations near these three that don't look quite so perfectly round like an old dead tree. It's easy to spot how they formed in the very same way.
SORRY - I was hoping that they were trees too.