Chattanooga Now Everything you need to know about the Mississippi Petrified Forest

Chattanooga Now Everything you need to know about the Mississippi Petrified Forest

December 1st, 2017 by Heather Newlin in Get Out - Bestmonth

Mississippi Petrified Forest

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Claim to fame: One of two petrified forests in the eastern United States

Location: Flora, Mississippi

Drive time from downtown Chattanooga: 5 hours, 50 minutes

Living History

Formed 36 million years ago in an ancient flooded riverbed, the Mississippi Petrified Forest is a National Natural Landmark filled with petrified trees preserved where they naturally fell or washed up as driftwood.

When they were living, the trees in the forest were estimated to be more than 100 feet tall and probably more than 1,000 years old. Knocked down in a river flood and buried in layers of displaced sand and silt, the trees decayed slowly over the ages while minerals replaced the original organic materials, forming the trees into stone fossils called petrified wood.

Mississippi Petrified Forest

Mississippi Petrified Forest

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Personal Touch

Throughout the forest, you can see and touch sections of the same trunks broken into pieces and moved apart under the weight of the layers of sand — sand that formed during the Ice Age and which now makes up the trail through the forest. One particular remnant, "Caveman's Bench," serves as a popular photo-op.

Mississippi Petrified Forest

Mississippi Petrified Forest

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

National Treasure

Out of only a dozen petrified-wood sites in the United States, the Mississippi Petrified Forest is the only one located in the Southeast. The next-closest is Gilboa Fossil Forest in New York.

Walk this Way

Guide posts along the trail point out the fossilized remains of extinct trees that have no living ancestors.

Mississippi Petrified Forest

Mississippi Petrified Forest

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Petrified Perspective

In the museum, you can peruse the park's collection of petrified wood from every state and some from other countries. The collection also includes fossilized leaves, bark, fruit and cones, dinosaur footprints, whale bones, turtle shells and a complete prehistoric-camel cast.

Take-home Treasure

At the gem-mining flume on the museum's patio, you can wash and screen your own "mine muck" and keep what gems and minerals you find inside.

Spend the Night

If you want to spend some more time among the trees, you can choose to camp for the night. The campground includes both primitive sites and those offering water, sewer and electricity.

Mississippi Petrified Forest

Mississippi Petrified Forest

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Visitor's Tip

The forest trail is paved, and dogs are welcome to explore with you as long as they are on a leash.