Our second stop was at the Mississippi Petrified Forest Campground. Being scientists, we tend to get excited about stuff like fossils and other unusual places which appeal to Geeks and Nerds. This place is a National Landmark but it is not a National Park so no discount but we stopped in anyway. It was an impulse thing. Dick saw this place on the map and said he wanted to see it. The times Google gives for driving have no connection to reality when you are pulling a trailer and have a husband, two elderly dogs and a cat to worry about. It was getting late. I was tired of driving. We decided to check it out. Sometimes an impulse stop like this is a disaster but sometimes great stuff happens and this was a good impulse detour.
On arrival we decided to stay for two nights. We had two reasons. One was due a pet accident, we had some more laundry to do that really couldn’t wait. [*big sigh*] Since this was a full service campground with the sewer hook up, we could do it ourselves in our portable washer. Second the weather was for rain and cold and the possibility of storms further west. It seemed like a good idea to let that happen without us being nearby. The next morning the weather was indeed drizzle and rain. The TV antenna picked up a local station with radar so we watched for a rain free spot and then took the petrified forest walk mid afternoon while north and west folks were dashing for their storm shelters.
The gift shop has pamphlets you get to do a self guiding tour which begins with a neat historical context display. Each spot is clearly numbers and you read the booklet and learn new things. It wasn’t pouring rain during our walk but the trees were dripping so our decision to wear rain gear was correct.
I liked how you can get right up close and touch the petrified logs, some of them were really huge.
There were many examples of petrified wood, large, small, complex, simple, colourful and beautiful. The booklet gave us detailed background on the history of the discovery of the forest and explanations like why certain colours appear on some logs.
Not only was the petrified forest a treat to see, the living forest around and above us was also lovely. Since we are both amateur botanists we enjoyed that almost as much. We also saw a lot of birds and a deer.
We spent a good two hours on the guided tour walk and then it started to rain again. I was not too bothered though because with the rain, we found we were alone on the walk. (Note that about 1/3 of the walk (with the best parts) was wheelchair/stroller accessible.) The walk ends by going through the indoor displays and then the gift shop. The indoor displays were wonderful. Short of the Smithsonian, I have never seen such a varied display of minerals from around the world in one spot. We really enjoyed that. They even had amethyst and fossils from back home!
Last stop was the gift shop. When you have as many grandchildren to buy for as we do, a place with neat stuff that kids like is always appreciated. No doubt the owners also appreciated our devotion to the grandkids. We picked out a really nice very small sample of the petrified wood for ourselves. We left with our treasures and the owners positively beaming at us.
That was the second stop on our slow migration home. We took five days to go across three states and travel about 500 miles or 805 km. Next stop, Louisiana!
Here is my review of the campground:
We pulled in on a whim because we are fossil fans. The Petrified Forest is privately owned and has an attached campsite with room for eleven rigs. They charge a modest $22/night. The full service campsites are neat, clean, well maintained. A maintenance worker came by for morning clean up and check on things. An employee came by in the afternoon to make sure that all was well. The road are narrow and the turns on the one big loop are a little on the tighter side but not impossible for our rig. There were no trees and hazards near the road. The roads themselves were surface washed out in a few spots but there was also a lot of fresh gravel as if being on a hillside it is a constant struggle to keep the roads from washing out. The setting is overall beautiful trees and shady. Some campsites are close together, most are widely spaced. There are both pull throughs and back ins. There are some longer term residents but the owners limit those to 6 months and I presume they are employees because their rigs were all neat and newer. There was a long list of rules but none onerous for a short term stay. We were originally sent to #7 but the very nice lady checking us in said we could change to #8 if we wanted to. This was a good thing because #8 was not long enough for our rig to find a level spot without unhitching. There was no wifi available. The trail through the petrified forest is well laid out and a pleasant walk of 45 minutes with a written guide to the sights. It is available for a discounted fee of $5 if you are camping there. If you like fossils and minerals, they have one of the best selections that I have seen in one place in their museum and gift shop. Overall a very good value and we were pleased with our stay. I wouldn’t go out of my way to stay here again, but it was well worth stopping and seeing once.