Dry Creek Petrified Forest
Johnson County, Wyoming
After a visitor to Buffalo has enjoyed a taste
of the 19th century old west, some may wish to take a 10-mile trip
east of town into the prehistoric age with a visit to the Dry Creek
Petrified Tree Environment Education area. Petrified wood was formed
when silicate minerals replaced the cell structure. Sediment, usually
volcanic ash, buried the stems, trunks or roots of woody plants
so rapidly that they do not decay. Water dissolves silicate minerals
as it seeps through the sediment and eventually it penetrates the
buried wood. Compaction expels the water from the plant tissues
and the deposited minerals harden to preserve minute details of
the plants structure. With all the livestock grazing the green grass
along the way, it's hard to believe that millions of years ago this
land resembled southern Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp.
Along County Highway 204, popularly known and
marked as the TW Road, red scoria topped hills dot the landscape.
After 8.5 miles, the graveled road intersects with the paved Tipperary
Road. Take a left turn onto Tipperary and travel 1.5 miles to a
major curve in the road. To the right in a non-accessible area a
lone petrified tree stands on the side of a scoria topped hill.
It takes a while to focus in, but the perfectly formed petrified
tree contrasts royally with the hillside. When the speedometer reads
10 miles, look to the right for a sign that denotes the Dry Creek
center, an outstanding natural area. As with all land in this area
visitors are encouraged to close the gate they open to the center.
The road winds through sagebrush until one reaches another sign
that reads, "As you travel this loop, you will read about the
formation of petrified trees, scoria and the Big Horn Mountains.
The tour area dates back to 60 million years when the swamp formed
metasequoia trees. After taking the loop tour and seeing the forest
in its serene setting, retrace the highway back to the intersection
of the Tipperary and TW roads. It is possible to remain on the Tipperary
road rather than turning left onto TW road for the return trip to
Buffalo. This return trip is only a mile or so longer and intersects
with Interstate-90 heading west toward Buffalo. Wyoming has other
petrified forests, including Amethyst Mountain in Yellowstone
National Park, where there are 15 buried forests. Yellowstone
also boasts a fossil sequoia stump with a diameter of 15 feet. Petrified
wood is also found in central Wyoming's Shirley Basin near Casper.
For more information and directions, inquire at the Bureau of Land
Management office in Buffalo.