Painted Desert, Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, United States

Photograph by Nick Zantop

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I took this photograph in the heat of the afternoon – the air was hot and dry, but the scenery was unlike anything I have seen. The Painted Desert is aptly named – stratified layers of colorful, easily erodible soil make for a magnificent wonder of nature. If you look closely, you can actually see several logs of petrified wood. The petrified logs were formed during the Late Triassic, when fallen trees collected in river channels in what is today Petrified Forest National Park. The downed trees were covered by sediment rich in volcanic ash – the groundwater dissolved silica from the ash which over time formed quartz crystals that eventually replaced the original organic matter in the logs.

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