petrified trees

Petrified Tree Stumps

Location: Theordore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota).

The above photo shows petrified tree stumps. Notice that most of the stumps are at the same level in the sediment, on top of the light gray layer. And notice something else... there are no roots. All of these stumps show that the trees were ripped off their roots. Anyone who has ever had to dig remove a stump knows this is not an easy thing to do. What happened?

Another question: this is called a petrified forest, because it looks like a forest grew here. WE see the stumps and petrified logs are scattered around the area. But this isn't a petrified forest. What happened?

We got the answer in 1981 when Mt. St. Helens erupted.

The eruption of Mt. St. Helens caused massive mud flows that ripped trees off their roots. The trees were carried into Spirit Lake where they floated. As the became water-logged, the heavier stump end of the log sank, tilting the log into an upright position. The logs sank to the bottom of the lake, burring the stump end in the bottom of the lake, and leaving the tree standing upright. A "forest" of trees on the bottom of Spirit Lake.

logs in spirit lake

And Then They Were Petrified

The forest on the bottom of Spirit Lake will not petrify. That requires that it be buried in sediment. The "trees" in Spirit Lake will eventually rot away. However, during a global flood layer after layer of sediment is deposited over a period of just weeks. The trees would be petrified in an upright position, looking just like they had grown there. The only time conditions have existed that could produce a petrified "forest" have bas been during the global flood.

In the Theodore National Park we see stumps, with fallen logs and lots of broken pieces of petrified wood scattered about. There was no one there to see what happened, but what the evidence points to is that after the trees petrified they were eroded out of the sediment. The sediment is very soft in that location, and it would have eroded relatively quickly. In the picture the stumps are eroding out of the side of the cliff. Petrified trees would not be able to stand without support, so the "logs" would fall over, many of them breaking. Additional weathering, and freeze-thaw cycles would further break up the petrified wood.

In other locations, that had different types of trees and harder sediment, we see that something different happened.

Polystrate Trees

Polystrate Trees

Depending on the situation and type of tree, when hit with flood waters or mud flows trees will break in different ways (if they break). The stumps in the top photo broke off at the roots, leaving the roots in the ground. Other trees will break off in the trunk and leave the stump and roots behind.

Even in a global flood most trees will not be buried in sediment and be petrified. The vast coal beds of America were originally vegetation. The sediment from early in the global flood was quickly deeply buried, creating tremendous pressure and heat. As the flood water drained off the land the rushing water eroded away (sheet erosion) thousands of feet of sediment making the coal accessible to us today.

However, in a few instances tree trunks were buried upright in sediment that turned to hard rock. We see these today... fossil trees that vertically go through many layers of sediment that supposedly took thousands of years to be deposited. But, something is wrong with this picture. A tree will not last thousands of years while sediment builds up around it. For polystrate trees to exist, and they do in multiple locations, the tree must be buried quickly and deeply, as would happen in a global flood.

And notice, polystrate trees have no roots and no branches. If these trees died standing in place, they'd have roots and branches. But, if the trees had been broken off by massive flood waters, carried away, sank heavy end down, and then were buried... exactly what would happen in a global flood... then polystrate trees with no roots and branches make sense.

Image Credit: Michael C. Rygel via Wikimedia Commons)

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