A little-known fun fact about Mississippi is that it’s home to one of just a handful of petrified forests in the United States, and the only one found in the Southeast. In fact, petrified wood is even the official state rock of Mississippi.
You can see this natural phenomenon just 30 minutes north of Jackson, at the Mississippi Petrified Forest. There, a nature walk winds through a prehistoric forest of maple, fir, palm, and other types trees (including some now-extinct species) that turned to stone many millions of years ago.
Experts estimate that these trees were ancient giants when they were alive, growing to be at least a thousand years old and standing over a hundred feet tall. The mighty trees were toppled by a river that washed through the area, carving out the ravine and depositing the giant logs in the riverbed, where they remain today. The driftwood was buried by sediment and minerals that replaced the organic material as it slowly decayed over time, turning the logs into stone fossils.
Although privately owned, the grounds of the petrified forest are maintained as a National Natural Landmark and offer a walk through these unique woods. Visitors can experience the beauty of the preserved trees from long ago, enjoy the peace and quiet of nature, and relax on a bench-shaped petrified log dubbed “Caveman’s Bench.” There is also a gem and mineral museum at the site. Although it only takes up a small room, each shelf is jam-packed with fascinating examples of petrified wood, rocks, minerals, and fossils from around the world.
Know Before You Go
Pick up a detailed walking guide at the visitors center to learn about the different trees, both living and fossilized. Don't forget to pet the cat who lives on the porch at the end of the nature walk!