Dinosaurs battle.

International Petrified Forest And Painted Desert (Gone)

Field review by the editors.

Sun Valley, Arizona

Travelers heading eastbound on I-40 are surprised to see life-size dinosaur statues along the south side of highway, and signs for the International Petrified Forest. What they perhaps don't realize is that Petrified Forest National Park -- the famous place with all of those petrified trees -- is actually 20 miles further down the road. The International Petrified Forest is an attraction with a slyly sound-alike name -- think Burger Chef to Burger King -- trying to lure the unwary.

Drive thru dino park.

Well, it is right off of the highway -- and there are all those dinosaurs to look at, right?

For ten bucks at the gatehouse you get a crude map and an indifferent wave forward. The map is a useless guide through the unmarked dirt roads, but one quickly learns that there's no risk of missing anything good. Away from the interstate, the dinosaurs are as tiny and sparse as the vegetation. You already saw all of the good ones, out by the road, for free.

We spotted some pathetic, penned-in buffalo in the distance (you can drive up closer), and a number of eerily perfect petrified log segments, positioned on little rises, with nothing else around them, for maximum visibility. Maybe they're native, or maybe they're dug up elsewhere and moved to their current photo-op positions? Are they even real? As for the Painted Desert -- evidently the management hasn't gotten around to painting it yet.

Petrified wood scattered around.

The crafty commercialism of such an artificial "world" appeals to us, of course. But the dino density and sheer silliness required to pull it off just isn't there (yet).

We wanted to cut this attraction a little slack, thinking it was new and its creators needed time to get the map right, to place the logs more naturally, and to fill in the many empty spaces with dinosaurs (and even cavemen buffalo herders). But it's been open since 1998!

Might be easier just to rename: "Extinction Valley: Where Only a Handful of Dinosaurs Survive!"

July 2007: Apparently not surviving for long... The park (referred to in news accounts as "Dinosaur Park") has been closed and sold for development. The dinosaurs may end up at various businesses in Holbrook, so keep your eyes peeled.

International Petrified Forest And Painted Desert

Was at I-40 exit 292, south side. DON'T CONFUSE THIS ATTRACTION WITH Petrified Forest National Park -- which is still open.
July 2007 - Closed, property sold.

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