There is a Yellowstone analog

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 11:14:08 06/25/16

In Reply to: Petrified Forest has a long history of problems. posted by DG


Having spent some time around the Yellowstone park archaeologist and park anthropologist, and a very knowledgeable volunteer, I learned, and have seen with my own eyes, way sad examples of how obsidian flakes, remnants of Native American "chipping" activities (making projectile points, knives, scrapers, and other tools) have disappeared from specific areas close to the road that were identified in Wayne Replogle's book way back when. I have conversed with individuals who remember seeing the ground littered with flakes in certain spots just 30 or 40 years ago. Upon my visits over the last 15 or 16 years, the ground was bare.

A Yellowstone parallel is the relative absence of petrified wood in close proximity to roads and trails. Thankfully, the park was created in 1872, and meaningful protection commenced with the arrival of the U.S. Army a decade or so later, or we wouldn't have anything left of the magnificent petrified stumps and logs that many thousands have hiked to near Specimen Ridge. Knowing there is no control over who reads this post, I will refrain from commenting about areas in and outside Yellowstone where petrified wood "float" (loose pieces on the ground) is common.

There is a definite connection between books, blogging, maps, etc. and the loss/damage/pilferage of rare resources in our national parks.

While I was a big fan of the controversial waterfall book that was published roughly 15 years ago, when it was in development, with the passage of time, and many more years of experience watching what goes on in Yellowstone, I have a greater appreciation for why so many district rangers were vehemently opposed to its publication. There are definitely some areas that have taken a beating since the book came out. At least, it is just short of impossible to trash a waterfall, and damage to vegetation via the creation of social trails can be mitigated with management action and the passage of time.

Here's a quick story about the impact of access much closer to your present home. Back in the 1980s, when I was volunteering with the Naturalist Division at Rocky Mountain National Park, I participated in seasonal naturalist training one spring. On a driving tour up Trail Ridge Road, before it was opened to visitor traffic, the park archaeologist pointed out a couple remnant game drive walls on the tundra. I had driven that road for over 20 years, and never noticed them. There is no parking nearby, and it would require a lengthy walk at an elevation above 11,000 feet, to reach the area from any available parking. I guarantee that the vast majority of visitors never see this particular resource, and as long as nobody publishes this info in a book (God forbid, along with GPS coordinates), the walls will be in place for a long time.


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