30. August 2013 10:21
Located among the hills and ravines just outside of metro Jackson in Flora, Miss., is a geological treasure trove that offers a glimpse of our state’s history dating back 36 million years. The Mississippi Petrified Forest is an unforgettable journey back in time and a tranquil location to enjoy some of the best that Mississippi’s beautiful outdoors has to offer.
The Petrified Forest was created over the course of thousands of years. First, raging flood waters along with the resulting sand and silt began the petrifaction process that would turn living trees into stone logs. Later, through the age of the glaciers and tremendous dust storms, these great stone giants rested under soil and vegetation until they were unearthed through a gradual erosion process. Many of the stone logs were broken by the sheer weight of the layers of earth that covered them and various sections tumbled into the ravines revealing what visitors can see today in the Petrified Forest.
The existence of the Petrified Forest has been known since the mid-1800s, but only within the past 40 years has the forest been developed and opened for the public to enjoy. A nature trail winds through the forest perfect for leisurely walks. The trail offers a written guide at each point of interest that tells the story of the forest and the stone logs that lie near the trail. A peek into the prehistoric forest that once stood, these logs reveal trunks that measure 12 to 15 feet in diameter. Many of the trees that once stood here were over 100 feet tall and perhaps 1,000 years old or more.
In addition to the nature trail, the Petrified Forest offers the Earth Science Museum, which features a large map with examples of petrified wood found in every state and some foreign locations along with information about plant life through the ages. Fossils including dinosaur footprints, whale bones, turtle shells and more are also on display. A gem mining flume is on site for a hand-on experience where visitors can play in the water and watch for real gems. It’s a fun way to start a rock collection while learning how to identify numerous gems and minerals.
A campground featuring RV hookups is available for campers and a large covered pavilion is also on-site and available for rental for family gatherings, company picnics, birthday parties and weddings.
The Mississippi Petrified Forest is open year round (with varying seasonal hours). Admission is $7 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. For more information, visit www.mspetrifiedforest.com.