Yellowstone Fossil Forests

Yellowstone National Park (U.S.) Fossil Forests

Some literature and other presentations claim the stacked "fossil forests" in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States, do not represent separate, successional forest development. For example, Steve Austin makes this claim in a video tape available from the ICR. Rather than being buried in place, it is claimed that these stumps are transported, and therefore they could be deposited in a short time, rather than the long time it would take for growth of a forest, burial, and growth and burial of each of the succeeding forests.

This claim is not supported by the evidence. Several characteristics can distinguish between stumps that are transported and those that were buried in place (see Fritz, 1980 and the citations in Fritz, 1984, quoted below). The trees at Yellowstone have been examined, and only some tree specimens at some localities are transported. The Specimen Ridge examples, which are most commonly cited, consist of in-place stumps.

Like the modern environments around Mt. St. Helens, there is potential to bury stumps in-place *and* to transport them upright in a variety of sedimentary environments (although burial in-place is far more common). Distinguishing the two (or even recognizing the presence of both) is not difficult. To simply say, "tree stumps can be transported, so all occurrences can be dismissed", is incorrect. The vast majority of occurrences can not be explained by transport.

References and quotes

Fritz, W.J., 1980. Reinterpretation of the depositional environment of the Yellowstone "fossil forests". Geology, v.8, p.309-313.

Yuretich, R.F., 1984. Yellowstone fossil forests: New evidence for burial in place. Geology, v.12, p.159-162.

Fritz, W.J., 1984. Comment and Reply on "Yellowstone fossil forests: New evidence for burial in place." Geology, v.12, p.638-639.

Yuretich, R.F., 1984. Comment and Reply on "Yellowstone fossil forests: New evidence for burial in place." Geology, v.12, p.639.

[Both authors agree there is plenty of sedimentological evidence Specimen Ridge examples are in place, and that *some* of the trees at *other* sections in the area might be transported.]

Fritz, 1984:

"In many places not cited by Yuretich, I have also interpreted the tall stumps on Specimen Ridge to be in place and have stated that the forests [besides Specimen Ridge] are best explained by _both_ in situ and transported wood (Fritz, 1980a, 1981a, 1981b, 1982, 1983; Fritz and Harrison, 1984). Furthermore, I have proposed ways to differentiate in situ from transported stumps (Fritz, 1981a, 1982, 1983; Fritz and Harrison, 1984); by all these criteria, the tall stumps on Specimen Ridge are in place."

[Some other locations may have transported stumps]

Yuretich, 1984:

"Fritz's Comment clears up any lingering misunderstandings that may have arisen as a result of the original publication about the Yellowstone fossil forests that triggered this series of exchanges (Fritz, 1980c). He has clearly stated elsewhere (Fritz, 1980a, 1982) that the Specimen Ridge trees are preserved in place, and I am glad this statement now appears in _Geology_."

"Many details of the facies relationships in the Lamar River Formation [the unit the Yellowstone fossil forests occur in] still must be studied, but I think we have at last gotten to the root of the forest problem, and no longer need to be stumped by the origin of these fossil trees."