Petrified Forest National Park expands by 26,000 acres

The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona just got bigger to the tune of 26,000 acres.

After years of negotiation, the National Park Service bought the land from a ranching family, the Daily Democrat reports. This land had been enveloped by the park when it expanded from 93,500 acres to 218,500 acres in 2004.

The park is famous for its colorful petrified trees scattered across the landscape. The scenery is equally colorful, with rugged hills striated with differently hued stone.

Since the new acquisition is remote ranching land closed to visitors, it should prove a treasure trove to archaeologists and paleontologists. Traces of prehistoric Native Americans, such as arrowheads and petroglyphs (rock art) are common finds in the park, and many dinosaur bones have also been found. Scientists get first dibs on the area, so it will be at least a few years before it opens to the public.

[Photo courtesy the Petrified Forest Ranger, who has an amazing photostream on flickr]