Bud Greer opened up the ranch for surface collecting to rock clubs and individuals in the 1950’s, with campsites and barbecue pits for the overnight guests. As with most of the ranches east and west of the national park, most all of the petrified wood on the surface was collected over the next 30-40 years, leaving only the largest logs, moveable only by heavy equipment. And even some of those were sold by enterprising locals.
One such individual was Marlin Maxwell, who had homesteaded a site on what was the old NZ Ranch property, just south of our ranch. Mr. Maxwell had become known as the local go-to guy for buying larger loads of petrified wood from the surrounding ranches, as this was his main source of income. He knew the land and knew the ranch managers, allowing him the access needed. Mr Maxwell sold numerous loads of petrified wood logs from the ranch to the handful of commercial cutting operations in the country, as is evident by their stories and collections.
More recent digging on the ranch occurred in 2003-2004, mainly on the lower sections: 31, 32, 33, and 34. Smaller equipment was used such as backhoes, with a maximum digging depth of 10-15 ft. According to the diggers’ own stories, the pits they eventually abandoned and filled-in had numerous large logs showing in the bottom. This supports similar findings on another ranch where the digging pits keep on yielding logs as far down as they currently have dug. A bottomless pit of petrified wood logs.
As there most likely is no known deposit pattern in the formation yielding these magnificent logs, a generally accepted picture of where the logs are located has developed through the following information gathering methods:
- Past diggings
- Study of general geology of area
- Drilling intercepts from potash exploration companies
- Geophysical exploration
- Surface deposits or remnants thereof
Our conclusion is that the Chinle Formation has petrified wood from the surface as far down as 800 ft. The logs are randomly grouped together, yet single logs are also found regularly. It is common to find 5-10 logs or more together, as if they were deposited a long time ago by some natural event which concentrated them into groupings. They almost exclusively are horizontal to today’s surface.
The petrified wood logs range in color and quality. With the ranch is situated on the Puerco Ridge area, which is known to be a top producer of colorful logs, as can be observed if one follows the Puerco Ridge westwards into the national park area, where the area called Rainbow Fields is located. Further west, on the sections adjacent to the parks western edge, is Jim Gray’s digging operation, where a treasure-trove of petrified wood has been mined over the last 20-30 years.
The ranch produces both rainbow wood as well as milky wood, which has various colors floating in a milky white center or background. It also has blackwood, another form of the connifer pine that was the prevalent tree in this Triassic forest, as well as Woodworthia and Schildaria varieties.
Along with abundant petrified wood, half a dozen fossil sites have been explored, with agatized bone and skulls from phytosaurs, desmatosuchus, and other unidentified Triassic reptiles.
Scroll down to see the categories of petrified wood that come from the ranch or view our Lapidary Showcase to see examples of finished petrified wood products.