Petrified wood retrieved from Pea River

Published 7:25 pm Friday, March 15, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Jeff Ellis, of the Tarentum, area dug up a load of wood from the sandy bottom of Pea River in Pike County.

At the time, he didn’t think about the heavy load of wood as anything more than a load of trees being removed from the river. But, he quickly realized that the load was more than water-soaked wood. It was petrified wood and it was worth the effort needed to remove it from its muddy burial.

“I knew it was petrified wood, but I didn’t really know how old it was or if it had any value in today’s world,” Ellis said “I started to read more about the petrified wood and how it is formed and how old it is.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Ellis said, from what he read in books and researched on the Internet, petrified wood is special because it is a fossilized stone that is millions of years old but it still retains the same shape as it did in ancient times.

The wood Ellis removed from the bottom of  Pea River appears to be from the Cretaceous period that began 145 million years ago and ended 66 million years ago.

“Either way, it’s old,” Ellis said, laughing

Ellis’ research revealed that petrified wood forms when wood stems of plants and trees are buried in wet sediments that are saturated with dissolved minerals.

Ellis said because of the lack of oxygen, the decay of the wood is slow. Minerals replace the cell walls and fill in the wood which is then mineralized to transform it into stone.

Knowing there was probably not a great need or market for wood turned to stone, he decided to relocate the petrified wood to his home grounds and property near Tarentum where the wood can be seen and appreciated.

Ellis designed a rock garden to enhance a covered outdoor patio and there are many petrified rock “sculptures” throughout the home property and extended property. He has given more than several rocks to his brother who is enhancing his property with several “petrified” rock sculpture.”

As much as Ellis and his family and others are enjoying the petrified rock sculptures, he does not recommend petrified rock hunting as a weekend project.