Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park contains the remains of one of the most unusual fossil forests in the world.

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park

Until recently, I’ve never taken the time to stop at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park although many of my friends assured me I’d enjoy it. However, with our trip to Ancient Lakes, I was determined to rectify that issue.

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park contains the remains of one of the most unusual fossil forests in the world. It was set aside as a historic preserve in the 1930s after highway construction crews working on the Vantage Road unearthed what proved to be some of the rarest forms of petrified wood ever found. Located one mile north of Vantage, near the geographic center of Washington State, the park is now a registered national natural landmark.

A Peek at Ancient Petroglyphs in Central Washington
Spiritual beings or shamans on these rocks?

Highway workers began finding petrified wood in the area as early as 1927, but the significance of the site wasn’t recognized until 1931, after a chance observation made by geologist George F. Beck, a professor at what was then Central Washington College of Education in Ellensburg (now Central Washington University). Beck had been driving on the Vantage Road along the Columbia River one day when he noticed a man coming down from the hills carrying a large piece of petrified wood. Beck quickly organized an initial excavation in the area. He and his students eventually identified dozens of species of prehistoric trees at the site, including the first known samples of petrified ginkgo.

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Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park contains the remains of one of the most unusual fossil forests in the world.

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Vantage

I’m sure everyone is familiar with the adage, “blink and you’ll miss it.” Well, nothing could be more true when applied to the small community of Vantage which is nestled on the west shore of the Columbia River where Hwy 90 crosses. The 2000 census put the population at around 70 people. But what this place lacks in people is more than makes up in charm and beauty.

Before the first bridge was constructed to cross the Columbia River was built, a small ferry was operated here starting in 1914. Only two cars could be carried at a time, but despite chains, blocks and brakes the ferry lost the vehicles and occupants on more than one occasion. Finally, in 1927 the ferry was pulled from service with the completion of the bridge. I can’t help but imagine that the bridge was in direct response to the lost vehicles.

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