Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Mon October 10 2016

Mississippi's Petrified Forest: Walking Among Ancient Trees

Destination & Tourism | Jennifer and Mark Campbell | October 10, 2016

Mississippi's Petrified Forest: Walking Among Ancient Trees

Photos by Just Chasing Rabbits

How would you like to step into a 36 million-year-old forest? In Flora, Mississippi, you can do just that.

Flora is the home of Mississippi's Petrified Forest, a National Natural Landmark. A trail through the park allows visitors to view petrified logs up close in the places and positions that nature has put them. Some simply lay where they fell, while others have been moved to this area as driftwood.

While visiting my sister for her birthday, we (me, my mom, my sister, her boyfriend, and their dog named Starla) decided to have an adventure and go check out the Petrified Forest.

Petrified wood is formed when the plant materials are replaced with minerals, which turns the log to stone.

The surrounding hills and cliffs show just how far the logs were once buried and just how much the land has been changed through erosion. How many petrified trees are yet to be uncovered?

If you're just itching to touch some petrified wood, the "Caveman's Bench" provides the opportunity for guests to sit right on the wood. It's shaped very much like a bench, allowing for a great photo op.

PHOTO: Mama sitting on the "Caveman's Bench" for a photo op!

Because the park is left to nature's changes over time, wind and rain may expose more logs or cover existing ones.

According to the nature trail guide, the red sand walls are from the Oglicene Epoch, around 37 million years ago. The sand that makes up the trail was formed during the Ice Age. Can you believe it? Have you ever thought about the age of the dirt that you walk on? We're walking on history every day!

PHOTO: Petrified logs identified as FLORAOXYLON — no living counterpart.

Some of the petrified logs, as shown in the photo above, have been identified and have no known living counterpart. Amazing to be looking at an extinct tree!

The earliest known find of petrified wood here occurred in 1854. The park became a National Natural Landmark in 1966.

READ MORE: The Extravagant Antebellum Mansions of Natchez, MS

The end of the Nature Trail is the beginning of the museum. We stepped inside to an amazing collection of petrified wood, fossils, gems and minerals from all over the world. On display are the remains of a mastodon that was found nine miles from this very park!

PHOTO: Mastodon fossils found less than ten miles from the Petrified Forest in Mississippi.

We are very familiar with fossils here in Mississippi. Fossil hunting is a lot of fun, and we've found many shells of extinct oysters and even shark teeth!

Because the Petrified Forest is the only one of its kind in the eastern US, it is definitely a special place to visit. Please remember to stay on the trails, refrain from littering and do not remove anything from the park. If you need a souvenir, they can be purchased from the gift shop!

Speaking of the gift shop, we were excited to see that they offer bags of dirt containing hidden gems. We were going flume mining!

We purchased our bags and took them out to the flume where we poured our bags of dirt onto screens, letting the moving water wash away all of the dirt. What was left? Lots of gems! This was a similar experience to panning for gold in Alaska.

PHOTO: My screen full of beautiful gems, including my birthstone!

We were given charts to find out just what gems we had uncovered, and I was especially excited to see amethyst, which is my birthstone!

The Petrified Forest is definitely a unique area in Mississippi. Walking through the forest is both relaxing and educational. It's like a science lesson and history lesson in one!

We recommend going in cooler weather. The Mississippi heat can be excruciating in the summertime. Also, bug spray is a great idea! During our visit, dogs were welcome, but please check the website or give them a call for updated rules, times, and admission information.

This story originally appeared on the Just Chasing Rabbits blog.

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