Collecting Arizona Petrified Wood
October 2010
By Jim Stoops
(click here to email Jim)


During the fall of 2010, my wife and I made a trip to San Diego in September to attend a family function. On the return trip we stopped at a number of locations to explore, sightsee and for myself, to rockhound. One of those stops was at the Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook Arizona.

We stopped at a large rock shop just south of Holbrook where we purchased a couple items for gifts and a few dollars worth of petrified wood. As we were checking out, I asked the clerks if they knew of any fee place out of the park where you could collect petrified wood. I received a negative answer which surprised me. The Rock &Gem magazine, August 2010 issue, had an article about collecting at the DoBell Ranch which was in the Holbrook area.

We drove east from Holbrook to the northern entrance to the Petrified Forest National Park. At the entrance I was asked by the attendant if I had any petrified wood. I said that I had bought some and had a receipt for my purchase. The park is very strict about the removal of petrified wood from the park and I totally have to go along with that policy. The Petrified Forest National Park is spectacular to see but think what it would be like if all the petrified wood removed in the past, before the park was established, was still in place. That removal was the spark that led to creation of the park.

The northern part of the park is a wonderful display of colors from the different sedimentary layers that forms a badlands known as a Painted Desert. The hue and intensity of the colors change as the sun crosses the sky; the view is never ending.

Moving south through the park we stopped at a pull off and took a look at the extensive number of petrographs of designs and figures that had been created in the past. The petrographs were made by removing the desert varnish off the rocks to create the designs and figures. Starting about the middle of the park we begin to see petrified wood and the amount increased as we traveled south.

  

The original wood had been buried in the long ago past and the wood was replaced by silica with trace minerals. Those trace minerals produced the rainbow of colors that are displayed in the petrified wood. It is amazing to look at the end of a petrified log two foot in diameter and view the various color showing. No two petrified logs have the same color pattern. Most petrified wood I have collected in the past was bit and pieces but in the National Park the petrified wood I was looking at included a lot of long logs. Like a normal log, the petrified logs had a stump, short branches still attached and visible knots. None of the logs were complete for the full length but had broken into short sections. We exited the south end of the park and were asked again if we had any petrified wood. All I had was what we had bought but I would have to do something about that.

There were two rock shops just south of the exit from the park and we stopped at one of them. Again I asked my question about fee places to collect and was told that nobody allowed fee collecting anymore, just too much hassle. We drove back to Holbrook and on the way I saw a small sign by the side of the road that had DoBell Museum written on it. Time to head to our motel in Showlow which is located about fifty miles south of Holbrook.

The next morning I left Showlow and drove about halfway to Holbrook and located a gravel road that led toward Holbrook. After stopping several times along the road I had a nice pile of petrified wood and other agate type rocks. The gravel deposits mined for the road gravel was in the drainage basin for the Petrified Wood National Park.

Around noon I arrived at the turnoff for DoBell Museum and proceeded to the museum site. BoDellís is a collection of museum, several living quarters, maintenance shop, petrified wood storage area and a large collecting area. The collecting arrangements are: A five gallon bucket of petrified wood for twenty eight dollars. You can pick off a stored pile of petrified wood, dig you own or a combination of both. I headed to the collecting area and discovered the main digging hole was full of water and the other holes had a lot of material washed in. This was an unusual situation for the area. The remnants of a tropical storm from the gulf had passed through the area quite recently. I dug in the driest hole but did not find much except for some small pieces of petrified wood. So I went looking around the area and noticed a large petrified log half submerged in the hole full of water. Apparently the ground layer containing petrified wood was partially exposed above the water level. In the area across from the log the wall of the hole had been sloped. I dug into the wall above the water level for some time and I was coming up empty. I noticed another petrified log barely exposed above the water and it was about six inches in diameter. Although the wall was above my head, I decided to dig a path to the petrified log I had spied. I removed enough wall material to make a narrow path over to the petrified wood and was rewarded with a section of log about eight inches long and broken into two four inch sections. One of the sections contained a knot. The colors on the log end were primary reds and yellow shades. It took time and a lot of sweat but I had what I had hoped to find when I had arrived in the area.

    

The DoBellís is a mom and pop type place with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. I brought up the subject of the local rock shops seemly not being aware that petrified wood could be field collected at their place. The reply was that the local shops have high overhead and need to sell all the petrified wood they can. DoBell is a place that needs to be support by rockhounds and others so another fine collecting place does not go out of existence. I will be going back the next chance I get. DoBellís Museum can be reached by heading southeast on US Highway 180 from Holbrook. The sign and turnoff for the DoBell Museum will be on the left. Now is time to head back to Showlow for the night and head to New Mexico in the morning.


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