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Monumento Natural Bosques Petrificados

This was a different land back when the Andes didn’t yet exist. Winds swept unhindered from the Pacific Ocean, carrying plenty of rains that allowed thick forests to carpet these plains. The Atlantic Ocean was a non-entity, as South America and Africa were one massive continent. Already in the Devonic Period (± 350 million years ago) 1.4 million trunks had fallen, their roots remaining intact. During the Jurassic Period things really began to change. The supercontinent began rending apart. Hurricane-force winds battered the scene. Intense volcanic activity buried the araucaria beneath ash. Then began the long process of petrification, which began to turn the once-living fauna into stone. The Patagonia experienced another dramatic reincarnation 40 million years ago, when a vast sea covered the region.

Monumento Natural Bosques Petrificados, also known as Bosque Petrificado Jaramilo, was created in 1954 to preserve 60,000 hectares of Argentina’s largest remaining petrified forest and most important fossil field. Throughout the region these woodlands had been heavily “mined” for over a century by settlers for souvenirs, furniture and yard decorations. This Natural Monument encompasses the largest petrified trees in the world. Some measure 35 meters (114 ft) long and three meters (10 ft) in diameter. When they were entombed by ash, some of the specimens were over 1,000 years old. The land, as well, shows remnants of the once great-sea. Numerous fossils of oysters, shark teeth and ancient other marine life are embedded in the rock.

Today the region of the reserve enjoys a desert climate, with annual precipitation reaching only 20 millimeters. Winds are predominantly westerly, averaging 50 kph, (30 mph) with gusts to 150 kph (90 mph). Temperatures in summer are 18-20ºC (64-68ºF), though they can hit 40ºC (104ºF), and in winter are -2-5ºC (28-41ºF), with dips as low as -15ºC (5ºF).

The plains are now covered with low, thorny scrub like duraznillo, coirón, calafate, and cactuses.

Yesteryear’s dinosaurs have been replaced with ferrets, pumas, lamas, dwarf armadillos, South American grey foxes, and various lizards. The flying reptiles morphed into the elegant crested tinamou, lesser rhea, black-chested buzzard-eagle, and magellanic horned owl. At Laguna Blanca a variety of flamingos, ducks, swans and other waterfowl are spotted, especially in the rainy season winter-early spring.

Monumento Natural Bosques Petrificados is divided into three sectors, with ranger stations: Horqueta and El Cuadro (both of which are closed to the public), and Bosques Petrificado. This last sector has a museum. An uphill path leads to the main field of petrified forest (Distance: 2 km / 1.2 mi, Difficulty: medium, Duration: 45 min). Other features in this part are dinosaur fossils, Laguna Grande and Volcán Madre e Hija. This 400-meter (1300-ft) high hill is the double lava chimney left from the eroded cone of an extinct volcano. A trail leads up the steep sides to a mirador from which Laguna Grande may be seen. To visit the main part of the reserve, you’ll need at least1.5 hours.

Monumento Natural Bosques Petrificados is open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. from October to March, and 10a.m.-5 p.m. from April to September. Entry is free. No camping is allowed within the reserve. The nearest is Camping La Paloma, 20 kilometers (12 mi) away on the road to the forest. The administrative office is in Caleta Olivia (Irigoyen 2044, Tel.: 485-1000, E-mail:


Other places nearby Monumento Natural Bosques Petrificados: Puerto Santa Cruz, Rawson , Gaiman, El Cóndor , Puerto San Julián , Las Grutas, Puerto Deseado, Bahía San Blas , Trelew and Caleta Olivia .

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

28 Jul 2010

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