Petrified Forest: Trees Turned to Rocks
Right here in Flora, just a short drive from Jackson, is the most unique nature’s treasure – Mississippi Petrified Forest. Visiting the park is very educational for both children and adults. There are Nature Trail Guides available to direct you through the trail and equip visitors with all the knowledge they need to fully understand the magnificence of this place. There are excerpts from scientific research and fun facts on every corner. And while you know in your mind that the trees have been transformed under the influence of natural forces (such as wind, rain, and floods, sun, seismic changes, etc.) for thousands and thousands of years, you wonder if perhaps a wicked witch put a spell on a luscious green forest and turned it to stone in an instant. Being in Petrified Forest sparks a lot of ideas if you’re the creative type. Bring a notepad and a pencil to get inspired and create a few sketches or write down ideas for a potential children’s book.
You’re Here! Now What?
Walk along the Nature Trail and pause at each point of interest. Moving slowly and reading the guide, you begin to see the story of the Mississippi Petrified Forest unfold.
Take a picture on the Caveman’s Bench. That’s a favorite photo spot for most visitors. Feel the rugged roughness of stone beneath your fingers where there was once bark and wood – a living tree. The huge stone logs give us a glimpse into prehistoric time. Can you imagine the size and grandeur of the forest there must have been when these stone logs were living trees? Some trees trunks may have measured twelve to fifteen feet across, their towering branches cresting a hundred or more feet into the sky. Few living trees today can match the magnificence of these stone logs, giants of their own time.
The Earth Science Museum is little, but packed with fascinating exhibits. This might have been my favorite part of the whole experience. You’ll find a large map with examples of petrified wood found in every state, and outside of the US as well. You’ll see plant life through the ages through a variety of leaves, fruits, cones and bark. There are many kinds of fossils that are incredibly unique and rare – dinosaur footprints, whale bones, turtle shells, mastodon bones found just 9 miles from Petrified forest, even a complete cast of a prehistoric camel. See if your kids can guess what that yellow little ball is. Hint: it’s a petrified fruit!
Gem Mining Flume
Have you or your kids ever tried gem-fluming? Here is a chance to picture yourself during the Gold Rush and take a chance in finding a treasure. Gem fluming is a fun and rewarding experience you can enjoy on the rock patio here at the park. Playing in the water, finding a gem – that’s what “fluming” is all about! Start with a bag of “mine muck”, the real term for rocks out of the mines. Wash and screen them, watch for real gems – you keep what you find! This is a great way to start a rock collection while learning to identify gems and minerals. Flume bags can be purchased in the gift shop for $4.00.
You cannot bring anything from the forest: the consequences are pretty serious. But you will really want to keep a little piece of this magical place. Thankfully, the gift store has a wide selection of petrified wood souvenirs to remember your journey through time. It may be a keychain, an arrowhead, a dreamcatcher – the choices are limitless. The prices are very affordable, too. A pair of petrified wood earrings is only about $7-$10. That would be an incredible gift or a stocking stuffer.
You can find all the information to help you plan your visit to Mississippi Petrified Forest here.
Know & Go
Open year-round (except Thanksgiving & Christmas Day)
Winter hours Labor Day to April 1
9am – 5pm
Summer hours April 1 to Labor Day
9am – 6pm
Mississippi Petrified Forest
124 Forest Park Road
P.O. Box 37, Flora, MS 39071
Student (grades 1-12) $6.00
Groups (15 or more) $5.00 each