Blue Mesa Trail, Photo Gallery, Petrified Forest National Park - Painted Desert, Arizona
Blue Mesa Trail
Petrified Forest National Park - Painted Desert
The Blue Mesa Trail winds through what is arguably the Park's most dramatic and visually stunning example of badland formations. Blue, grey, white, lavender and green striated mounds, cones, buttes and fins rise sharply above an otherwise flat and barren landscape. These color bands are the combined result of mineral presence and water levels at the time of sedimentary deposition.
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Rounds of colorful petrified wood lay at the base of the Blue Mesa badland formations
Minerals can be thanked for the beautiful colors in petrified wood. Iron oxides provide the red, yellow and orange hues. Manganese oxides produce the blues, purples and deep blacks while Carbon produces the shades of gray.
The petrified wood, once part of a living tree, is buried in the badlands of Blue Mesa. Erosion eventually causes the wood to be revealed at which point it drops to the canyon floor
The Blue Mesa badlands fall prey to erosive forces. Bentonite clay within the hills will swell when wet and shrink when dry creating a porous surface. This movement discourages plant growth while accelerating erosion.
A Raven enjoys the pastel bands of the Blue Mesa area. Grey, blue, green and lavender layers were colored by iron and manganese oxides as well as other organic materials.
'Conglomerates' cover the floor of the Blue Mesa Trail. Conglomerates are layers of pebbles and stones, now naturally cemented to the ground, that were carried here over 200 million years ago by prehistoric rivers.
A piece of petrified wood sticks out of the ground. Notice the 'conglomerate' of pebbles and stones that surround it.
Vast grasslands lay behind the Blue Mesa area, providing home to Pronghorn and a host of other wildlife
A Pronghorn Antelope forages for food near Blue Mesa