John Muir in the Petrified Forest

I am very much a historian. That is why on this blog you will occasionally see posts on other subjects such as the Civil War and Route 66. The same goes with my approach to paleontology. For more than 10 years now I have been conducting paleontological inventories of federal lands (the North Horn Formation in the Manti-La Sal National Forest in Utah and now at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona). One of the more fascinating aspects of these inventories is relocating historic quarries. For example Charles Camp and Annie Alexander from the University of California Museum of Paleontology worked in the Petrified Forest in 1921 and Camp also worked there in 1923 and 1927. They left behind a good series of photographs of their work and it has been a pleasure to relocate these sites. Ned Colbert of the American Museum also left photos of his 1946 field season in the park. Charles Gilmore of the Smithsonian worked back to back in 1936 in the North Horn and in the Chinle at the Petrified Forest, so I have relocated his sites in both places. It is a thrill for me to go back and stand in the places where these giants of vertebrate paleontology once worked.

The reknowned naturalist and author John Muir was not a full-time paleontologist but he was the first person to collect fossils in the Petrified Forest, and in fact it was his small collection that later spurred the more intensive work of Camp and Alexander. Muir spent much of 1905 and the beginning of 1906 at the small railroad stop of Adamana which at the time was the gateway to the Petrified Forest. Muir was there to write a series of articles on the Petrified Forest (never completed). His daughters Helen and Wanda were with him and a major reason they were in Arizona was to experience the dry desert air for Wanda's health. Muir and his daughters took numerous photographs of their visit and these are among the earliest known photos of Adamana and the park. A major set back for Muir during his time here was the death of his wife Louisa in early August, 1905 but he later returned to the area with his daughters. I have posted some of the photos below. These are courtesy of the National Park Service.

Photo of Muir's tent in the snow at Adamana in December of 1905. Note Muir's hand labelling of the photo.

Back in the day, everyone had to get their picture taken on Agate Bridge. This is a petrified log spanning a large gully and is still intact today (thanks to the help of some concrete that the railroad put in before 1920 as they were afraid of losing one of their major attractions. Today, visitors are not allowed to stand on the span.

Muir studying a petrified log.

Muir and a group studying a log in Jasper Forest (historically called the First Forest).

Another shot from Jasper Forest.

and another....

and another....

Muir on horseback in the Tepees area of the park examining fallen blocks of the Newspaper Rock Sandstone. Ripple marks and trace fossils are common in this unit.
I hope you enjoyed these. I plan to post more historic photos and some reshoots of historic photos in the future.


  1. Muir's a hero of mine, but I never knew he spent time in AZ. Thanks for posting these photos!


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