Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park

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Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park
Wanapum Recreational Area
A collection of petrified logs are on display outside the park interpretive center
Map showing the location of Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park
Map showing the location of Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park
Map of Washington state
Location Vantage, Washington state
Coordinates 46°56′56″N 120°00′10″W / 46.94889°N 120.00278°W / 46.94889; -120.00278Coordinates: 46°56′56″N 120°00′10″W / 46.94889°N 120.00278°W / 46.94889; -120.00278
Area 7,470 acres (3,020 ha)
Designated: 1965
Park entrance features a petrified log
Old stone house in the State Park

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park/Wanapum Recreational Area is a 7,470-acre (3,023 ha) state park at Vantage, Washington including 27,000 feet (8.2 kilometers) of freshwater shoreline on the Wanapum Reservoir on the Columbia River. Petrified wood was discovered in the region in the early 1930s, which led to creation of the park as a national historic preserve. There is a museum center at the site and one of the many features of the park is a Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail. The trail is split into two segments. There's a 1.5-mile loop through sagebrush-covered hills, or you can hike a longer 2.5-mile loop.[1] The trail follows an exposed section of prehistoric Lake Vantage and wanders past 22 species of petrified logs that were left where they were discovered in the 1930s. The park is located at 4511 Huntzinger Road; Vantage, Washington 98950 and is owned by the Washington State Parks and Recreation.

Over 50 species are found petrified at the site, including ginkgo, sweetgum, redwood, Douglas fir, walnut, spruce, elm, maple, horse chestnut, cottonwood, magnolia, madrone, sassafras, yew, and witch hazel. The museum also includes many Wanapum petroglyphs.


During the Miocene epoch, around 15.5 million years ago,[2] the region was lush and wet, home to many plant species now extinct. A number of these trees were buried in volcanic ash, and the organic matter in the tree trunks was gradually replaced by minerals in the groundwater; the resulting petrified wood was protected for millennia by flows of basalt. Near the end of the last ice age, the catastrophic Missoula Floods (about 15,000 BC) eroded the basalt, exposing some of the petrified wood.

In prehistoric times, the Wanapum tribe of Native Americans inhabited the region along the Columbia River from the Beverly Gap to the Snake River. The Wanapum people first welcomed white strangers in the area during Lewis and Clarks expeditions across the United States.[3] They lived by fishing and agriculture, carved over 300 petroglyphs into the basalt cliffs, and may have used the petrified wood exposed by erosion for arrowheads and other tools.[4] According to documentation at the Park, Wanapum never fought white settlers, did not sign a treaty with them, and, as a result, retained no federally recognized right to the land.

Around 1927, highway workers noticed the petrified wood, leading geologist George F. Beck to organize excavations.[4] The Civilian Conservation Corps completed the excavation, built a small museum, and opened the park to the public in 1938.

The petrified wood specimens in the museum were collected by Frank Walter Bobo, who was born March 4, 1894 in California. He moved to Cle Elum, Kittitas County, Washington. He became a "desert rat" digging petrified logs from the arid hills of Kittitas and Yakima counties. He was commissioned to collect, saw, and polish the specimens for the museum. Bobo was partially compensated by being allowed to keep one-half of the specimens he prepared while on commission. His son, Don J. Bobo, Teanaway Valley, Washington, inherited his father's collection of about one ton of petrified wood.

In 1963, Wanapum Dam was completed about four miles (6 km) downstream, raising the water level of the Columbia River. A new Interpretive Center was constructed and about 60 petroglyphs salvaged from the rising water. Many of the salvaged petroglyphs are on display at the Interpretive Center.

In October 1965, the National Park Service designated the Ginkgo Petrified Forest as a National Natural Landmark.[5]

Petrified wood was named the Washington state gem by the state legislature on March 12, 1975, perhaps in part due to the popularity of this park.[6]


  1. ^ O'Neal, Dori. "Hard Facts on Ginkgo Petrified State Forest". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "Biostratigraphy of Columbia Basalt Group Petrified Forests". Geological Society of America. 2003. Retrieved 2006-12-02. 
  3. ^ Ordway, John. "Wanapum Indians". National Geographic. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  4. ^ "Ginkgo Petrified Forest". National Park Service. 
  5. ^ "Washington: petrified wood (state gem)". 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-02. 

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