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Is It Illegal to Take Rocks From Petrified Forest?

If you’ve never driven through the Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona, you must put it on your bucket list. It’s a stunning geological site and a history lesson. Millions of years of weathering and erosion have created this unique landscape.

It’s no wonder that visitors want to take a piece of the Petrified Forest home with them. But this is illegal, and it’s also harmful to the environment. Let’s look at why this law is in place and how you can help preserve this national treasure for generations to come.

Let’s dive in!

About Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona covers over 200,000 acres. Designated trails run throughout the park and offer opportunities for guests to see the Painted Desert, petroglyphs, Crystal Forest, and massive petrified logs up close.

The complexity of the natural world is astounding. Erosion shapes the mesas and buttes. The slopes of the Painted Desert are bentonite, a product of volcanic ash. The petrified wood logs are byproducts of downed trees in river beds covered with volcanic ash and crystallized millions of years ago.

Beyond the geological formations, there are also stories of ancient civilizations. The petroglyphs offer a glimpse into these cultures. It’s no wonder that President Theodore Roosevelt named this area a National Monument in 1906. Almost 60 years later, it became a National Park in 1962.

Can You Take Rocks From Petrified Forest?

It is against the law to take anything from Petrified Forest National Park. This includes relocating items within the park. Doing this also violates the “Leave No Trace” mantra of visiting and enjoying the outdoors. Regardless of legality, it would be best if you didn’t take anything from any outdoor location.

When visiting a state park or National Park, you shouldn’t pick flowers or take home rocks as souvenirs. It’s essential to the ecosystem to leave things exactly as they are.

Additional rules of “Leave No Trace” include staying on the provided paths, not feeding the wildlife, and picking up your trash. These rules apply to the Petrified Forest National Park. When you step off the trail, you’re damaging the natural surroundings. You can quickly destroy fragile soil with your feet.

When you feed a wild animal, you encourage unnatural eating behaviors, and animals can come closer to humans. Hungry animals can be dangerous and aggressive. Finally, leaving trash lying around is not only an eyesore but is a health hazard for the wildlife. If animals eat things they shouldn’t, they could get sick or die.

To maintain the purity of the land and protect the area for generations, you shouldn’t remove rocks from the Petrified Forest National Park. Please don’t ruin this experience for your grandchildren or their children when visiting this unique place.

Pro Tip: Before you head out on your next adventure, make sure you understand Why RVers Must Leave No Trace!

Petrified Forest National Park entry sign
Petrified Forest National Park is a stunning geological site, but don’t let that tempt you into taking the rocks.

The Consequences Of Stealing From a National Park

The minimum fine is $325 for removing or damaging the petrified wood. Unfortunately, theft is quite common in National Parks and National Forests. Two men who wanted to steal timber from Olympic National Forest caused the Maple fire in Washington State in 2018. They set the fire to try to remove a beehive inside the tree. The lead defendant was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

Then there are poachers. Officials in Shenandoah National Park are saddened by the number of black bears killed each year. Headless alligators are found in Big Cypress National Preserve frequently. Numerous rocks, shells, and plant life are taken from National Parks, too. These illegal behaviors are causing the decline of wildlife and plant species.

National Parks and National Forests don’t have the workforce to protect every acre of land. With some locations being so remote, it’s impossible to enforce these rules everywhere. It’s up to guests to be responsible and help protect and maintain these unique places. No matter the legal consequences, the environmental impacts are far more significant.

Do People Take Rocks From Petrified Forest?

Even with the warnings, pleadings, and posted signs everywhere, visitors still take rocks from the Petrified Forest National Park. They want a piece of history or a souvenir to share with family and friends. Most visitors think taking one little rock isn’t going to cause damage with so many pieces lying around.

This happens all across the United States. The rocks and coral at Haleakalā National Park in Hawaii are considered sacred in Hawaiian culture.

Visitors also take rocks at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. These rocks are often returned by mail when travelers experience bad luck back home. They attribute this to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, who sends misfortune on anyone who removes the precious rocks.

Woman posing in Petrified Forest National Park
Take photos to keep as souvenirs instead of rocks!

The Return Of the Rocks

The return of rocks, shells, sand, and other items stolen from National Parks is standard. People mail their souvenirs with apology letters. These guests usually have experienced bad luck and attribute it to their illegal behavior. A ranger at Bryce Canyon National Park opened an apology letter with the stolen rocks. A similar situation happened in Colorado. Other guests who take sand from beaches return the bottles, claiming it brought them bad luck.

Petrified Forest National Park is one of the most offending areas. There have been countless apology letters and petrified wood pieces returned by mail. Whether it’s genuine regret or just trying to get rid of a curse, visitors realize that what they did was wrong.

Many of these “conscience letters” are online, along with photographs.

Pro Tip: Make sure to leave no trace when visiting these Hottest National Parks You Can Visit This Summer.

Leave the Rocks in the National Park

You may not think removing a single rock from a 50,000-acre National Park will make any difference. But if every visitor did this, they would destroy our National Parks. They would eradicate ecosystems. This law protects these lands for future generations. Buy rocks at the gift shop.

Leave the natural stones in their natural locations.

Have you ever taken something from a National Park? Did you end up returning it? Tell us your experience in the comments!

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