We knew that we would eventually take the kids to see Mt. St. Helens National Park as part of teaching them about geology and to see the history of the volcano that at one point had impacted our lives when we were their age.
We had watched this video by Dr. Steve Austin (see below) who challenged the incorrect view of how petrified forests were formed at Yellowstone and elsewhere. The thought crossed my mind to stop and show the kids the Gingko Petrified Forest that I knew was on the way just outside of the freeway system near Vantage, Washington.
To be honest, I know that this won’t be the most exciting topic to post about when you look at the pictures, but I wanted to show how if we know of a learning opportunity along our route, we try to work it in, trusting that it is a teachable moment and will expand the knowledge of the world for our children. Even if you think the kids won’t remember it, you never know how a connection to what they are learning will be made. My parents were both educators and my Mom still says today, “At what point does a child learn?” meaning that at any point in the learning process a connection might be made, so always be approaching learning from various angles. Perhaps, you’ll learn a little something too by watching the video above as most people don’t know that this has been scientifically proven as a theory on how petrified forests are created.
We crossed the bridge at Vantage and pulled off the freeway to drive about a couple of miles off the beaten path to the Gingko Petrified Forest. The kids were thrilled to get out of the car and stretch their legs for a bit.
There’s a nice paved trail and maps to guide you along the way, but no ranger on duty or any sort of explanation on how these are formed for the public to view.
At each of the sites on the map, the petrified logs were encased with a wire protected with a locked frame to keep would-be thieves away. It was sort of a bummer to have to view the specimens in this way, but I can understand the need to do something to protect them. Never-the-less, the kids realized that at some point, this area had been a forest and there must have been some sort of calamitic event that would have wiped out trees that once grew here in this arid region.
Gingko Petrified Forest State Park
4511 Huntzinger Road
Vantage, WA 98950
Ph: (509) 856-2700
Summer 6:30 a.m. – dusk
Winter Nov. 1 – Feb. 1, Weekends and holidays, 8 a.m. – dusk
Park Winter Schedule
(Note: There is a small cost to park if you do not already have a day-use parking pass)
Excerpt from Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park Web site on History of this area:
“…one of the most diverse groups of petrified wood species in North America. Professor George Beck was the first to fully recognize the site’s significance. Upon his 1932 discovery of a rare petrified Ginkgo log (Ginkgo biloba), Beck led efforts to set aside this remarkable forest and preserve it. In 1935, as part of a grand vision to establish the site as a National Monument, Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park was born.
During the midst of the Great Depression, emergency work relief funds were used to protect and develop the park. Between 1934 and 1938, Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees, as well as local emergency work relief laborers, built much of the park infrastructure we see today, including ranger residences, an interpretive center, and a trail-side museum and trail system. In 1965, the park was formally registered as a National Natural Landmark.”
On the way over the ridge (we decided to take the old highway to Ellensburg, Washington — the scenic route), we saw up close the wind turbines in full action. It stood as another lesson in energy production after visiting the Grand Coulee Dam prior.
5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business, agency, or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents to engage and explore with their children. As always, whenever trying something new, please use your own good judgement in what best suits the needs of your family to keep everyone safe while having fun.
5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today.”