This article is number two of ten on west coast fossil museums and is focused on the Ginkgo Petrified Forest in central Washington State. It is located in the small town of Vantage. I first visited this museum as a teenager, then again in 2010, and most recently in the summer of 2023. There have not been many noticeable changes over all those years, but it is a good place to see indoor and outdoor displays of petrified wood. There are also some spectacular scenic views outside the center that alone make a visit worthwhile.

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park Entrance

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park Museum

The ginkgo tree is a living fossil, and numerous specimens have been found in the vicinity of the 7,000 acre state park on the shoreline of Wanapum Lake along the mighty Columbia River. The nearest city is Ellensburg, WA with a population of about 18,000 souls.

Ginkgo Petrified Forest Area Map

As with all government interpretation centers that I have ever visited, deep time and evolution are assumed, but all of the geological and paleontological evidence at Vantage can be easily interpreted according to God’s biblical history. Collecting petrified wood is commonly a fossil hobby with specialized students and promoters. As I have learned about fossils of all types and descriptions I have had less interest in petrified wood so I am relatively ignorant about the details of this type of fossil. Due to this ignorance a lot of petrified wood samples look the same to me. However, experts are able to determine much from their inspections of particular samples. There are a large number of displays of petrified wood samples at the Vantage museum. Below are a few of the photos I took in 2023 of these samples.

Inside Petrified Wood Display

Inside Petrified Wood Display

The inside petrified wood displays at the Ginkgo museum reminded me of the displays in the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals in Hillsboro, Oregon which also has many similar petrified wood samples on display in their museum.

Outside Petrified Logs Display

Outside Petrified Logs Display

One of the things I learned about the identification of petrified wood at the Vantage museum was that the various characteristics of wood cells can be identified in petrified wood slabs if the original cell structure is faithfully replaced by minerals such as silica. Of course these minerals are what “petrify” the wood and make samples much heavier than living wood. As with all permineralized fossils there is a requirement for quick burial by water laden sediments. Usually the petrified wood experts require the use of hand lenses or microscopes to see this structure in the petrified wood so that they can identify it.

I know that petrified wood has been found in geographic locations all over the world. Inside the Vantage museum is an interesting display that highlights what is said to be the seven locations in the USA where petrified logs have been found in an abundance great enough for the particular area to be called a “petrified forest.” The areas shown on the map are:

1. Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage, Washington.

2. An unidentified area in Custer County, Idaho.

3. The Petrified Forest in Calistoga, California.

4. The Petrified Forest in Arizona.

5. Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

6. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado.

7. Fossil Cycad National Monument, South Dakota.

While I have not visited all of these locations, I have visited and studied locations numbered 1, 4, and 5. The locations I have visited can be interpreted to have petrified logs that are a result of the actions of the global Flood at the time of Noah.  Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park is one of a few places where logs have been found within lava that was once molten.

USA Map Display Showing “Petrified Forest” Locations

The Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park did not have petrified wood for sale at the museum. However, nearby is a privately owned rock shop that relies on the traffic to the state park. There one can shop for petrified wood, fossils, and associated gifts that are all for sale.

Rock and Fossil Shop Sign near the Ginkgo State Park

Rock and Fossil Shop Exterior View

If you do travel to the area of the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park in Washington, you might like to head on up north on highway 283 through the town of Ephrata and to Dry Falls Interpretive Center. There you can see spectacular scenery caused by the Ice Age Missoula Flood and a display regarding the famous Blue Lake Rhino Fossil. It will take about an hour drive time to get there.

Click here for another article on this website with specific information on the Ginkgo living fossil.

J.D. Mitchell

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