Who’s Petrified Now? Washington’s Gingko Forest

The forest wasn’t petrified. I was petrified. You know you’re not in Western Washington any more when you see this sign like this one…

Gingko Petrified Forest

Today (March 19, 2010), the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage, Washington reopens after a winter hiatus. In contrast to Western Washington’s rainy, temperate climate, Vantage’s climate reflects its Central Washington location, just east of the towering Cascade Mountain Range. It’s darn dry here.

Millions of years ago, this area was lush and damp, a swamp-filled rainforest dripping with tropical-looking plants and giant gingko trees. Then volcanic eruptions and massive floods tore through the region, burying artifacts in soil and stone. Today, the Gingko Petrified Forest’s Interpretive Center stands on top of a violent-looking gorge, where Earth-mama drama once ripped through the land.

On the day we were there, we didn’t see any of the bobcats, rabbits or skunks that live among the 7,470-acre park’s sagebrush and Ponderosa pine. So we walked among petrified logs and tried to decipher petroglyphs.

Petrified Wood

petroglyphs at the Gingko Petrified Forest, Washington State


Inside the fascinating interpretive center, we saw fossils that staff had labeled with “looks like” signs (an angel? a coyote? a deep sea fish). We pretended like we could shop from the museum’s displays of gems and semi-precious stones.

Petrified Wood-Fish

We watched tiny speedboats power down the river, looking rather insignificant when up against the giant basalt cliffs and millenniums of history.

A speedboat on the Columbia River

Find more photos and stories at DeliciousBaby’s Photo Friday.

About Lora

Lora Shinn writes about travel for regional and local publications, including AAA Journey, National Geographic Traveler, Bankrate.com, Natural Health and Whole Living.


  1. TheWordWire says:

    I’m with you – I’d have been petrified too. Looks like a nice place despite the snakes. Thanks for sharing and happy spring!

  2. Rattlesnakes! Yikes! I live in Florida and whenever we go hiking on a trail that has a sign saying beware of alligators I get that same petrified feeling!

  3. There are lots of those signs in these parts (Northern California). The good news is that despite all the nerves, rattlesnake sightings are rare. Nonetheless, looks like a interesting spot!

  4. I guess I have to distract my husband from seeing the sign if we want to visit this park. :)
    .-= Amy @ The Q Family´s last blog ..Washington DC with Kids: Family-Friendly Activities during the Cherry Blossom Festival =-.

  5. Furthest north we’ve gotten so far is Seattle, and that was just for a few days. As far as really exploring I’d say the Portland area. The Northwest is so new to us – really like another country in many ways. Reminds me how much there is to see in the U.S., and, while I love overseas travel and want to expose my boys to as much as possible, I would be remiss if I didn’t show them as much of this country as I can as well, instilling a curiosity for the world as well as an appreciation for the home.
    .-= Kickass Adventuring with Kids´s last blog ..Favorite Exchanges: Brothers in Arms =-.

  6. I had no idea WA had a petrified forest. Though I guess it makes sense considering all the volcanic activity. We actually saw a rattlesnake on the trail the other day and it FREAKED ME OUT!
    .-= Sharlene´s last blog ..Cabrillo National Monument =-.

  7. Thanks for all the great comments. It’s a cool place, and so different!


  1. […] arid landscape and rolling hills of bleached grass. A prime pick: Washington’s weird little Petrified Gingko Forest (about 2 hours from Seattle; go to downtown Ellensburg for food). Sledding and snowshoeing at […]

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