Petrified Forest National Park was authorized to more than double in size through the Petrified Forest Expansion Act of 2004.
Since that time, the park has acquired over 53,000 acres (41% of authorized expansion acreage) through transfer from BLM and purchase from willing private sellers. About 20,000 acres of these new lands were opened to the public in 2014.
Unfortunately, a big portion of the newly acquired lands are in checkerboard pattern with Arizona State Trust Lands, which are closed to the public without a special permit. Recently, the park received a permit from the Arizona State Land Department, which allows guided public access to these lands (covering another 20% of the authorized expansion acreage).
With permit in hand, the park can now open the former Paulsell Ranch to guided tours led by park-sanctioned guides. The only guides sanctioned so far are with Petrified Forest Field Institute, which is expected to begin offering tours to the public in 2019.
The Paulsell Ranch was acquired because of its high value in both archeological and paleontological resources. It’s also a picturesque place and a window into the ranching history of the area. A small group of people can feel very solitary in the broad expanse of high desert grasslands there, even with the freeway and railroad within sight.
Over the winter, in preparation for the opening of these lands, park staff will develop a process for permitting guided trips to camp on the Paulsell Ranch and enjoy multi-day trips and the dark night skies of this International Dark Sky Park.