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The greatest sequence of superimposed fossil forest levels is located in the Specimen Creek area where 65 or more levels can be counted (Table 1). Norris on the east side of Soda Butte Creek Valley (5 levels), Specimen Ridge flanking the Lamar Valley (15 levels), and Cache Creek (26 levels). Several more levels seen in the cliffs below were inaccessible. DESCRIPTION OF THE PETRIFIED TREES Both upright and horizontal trees are found in the deposits, but the percentage of upright trees varies from locality to locality (Table 2).Multiple levels are also seen at Miller Creek northeast of the Lamar Valley, in Tom Minor Basin (including Ramshorn Peak), and in the Stratified Primitive Area. The solid lines are organic levels or levels upon which upright trees stand. For three levels of the Fossil Forest (Amethyst Mountain) with 208 petrified trees, only 28% are upright.Near the northeast boundary of the Park and eastward, a sequence of beds down to the Lower Cambrian have been disrupted by a major horizontal movement of strata called the Heart Mountain Thrustfault.To the west the Yellowstone volcanics lie adjacent to the uplifted Precambrian and Paleozoic formations of the Madison Range. Successive Layers Petrified wood and trees are found in numerous locations around the world, but the Yellowstone Petrified Forests are unusual because of the many levels stacked one upon another.In 1960 Erling Dorf of Princeton University studied the Amethyst Mountain Fossil Forest and counted 27 levels.I have plotted 31 levels on Mount Hornaday on the west side of the Soda Butte Creek Valley (Figure 4).The upright trees may range in height from just above ground level to over 6 m.
Individual levels may be even more variable some with all trees horizontal or all upright.A puzzling feature of all the petrified forests in and around Yellowstone Park is the absence of diagonal or leaning trees.I know of only three locations (two with one large tree each, and the other with three or four small trees) where leaning trees can be seen (Figure 5).There is an almost mystical drawing power associated with fossils. Coffin's quest for answers has taken him from the tops of high mountains, to encounters with grizzly bears, to walks into the destruction zone of Mount Saint Helens. Harold Coffin's lifelong quest for answers concerning not just one fossil but literally a whole "forest" of fossils, the fossil forests of Yellowstone National Park (YNP). Coffin has pioneered research into the various fossil areas of YNP looking for clues that would help him unravel the questions of origins for these magnificent fossil trees.