The 12 Great Sites To Find Kentucky Petrified Wood in 2023

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

| Updated

The 12 Great Sites To Find Kentucky Petrified Wood in 2023

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Updated

Imagine a piece of wood that was once part of a living tree but has now turned into a stunning stone. Isn’t petrified wood just amazing? Its colors and textures are like nature’s artwork, capturing history in a way that’s totally breathtaking!

If you want to find petrified wood in Kentucky, though, be warned that it could be quite a challenge. It’s because it’s just not as common as in some other states. But don’t let that discourage you— it only makes the hunt even more thrilling!

While it can be tough to know where to look for Kentucky petrified wood, we did the hard work of scouring our state to find the great sites where you can find them.

With a bit of patience, our guidance, and a keen eye, you could be holding a piece of unique geological history right in your hand!

What Is Kentucky Petrified Wood

Close-up look at a brown petrified wood
Petrified wood photo provided by and available for purchase at saharagems

Petrified wood is an incredible natural wonder where wood becomes stone! How does this happen?

When a tree falls and gets buried under mud or volcanic ash, the real magic begins. Over a long time, groundwater rich in minerals seeps into it. This slowly replaces the wood’s organic material. Eventually, it becomes a rock that has the shape and even some details of the original tree, like rings!

This process, called petrification, can take millions of years. The result is a beautiful, colorful stone that will amaze you with its looks.

You can often find petrified wood in places where there were ancient forests and where volcanic activity or other geological conditions were just right for petrification. Think deserts, near old volcanoes, or regions with a history of flooding.

The Types of Petrified Wood Found in Kentucky

The scarcity of petrified wood in Kentucky can make each find unique and special.

It would help a lot if you’re knowledgeable about what petrified wood is and how you can identify it, so make sure you go through our article on that. It would also be helpful if you’re familiar with the different types of petrified wood that you might find here, as follows:

Silicified Wood

Silicified wood is a type of petrified wood that’s filled with the mineral silica. When wood becomes silicified, it turns into something truly amazing!

The silica inside might be clear like glass or filled with stunning colors like red, yellow, or even blue. It often shows the original growth rings of the tree, so you can see lines and patterns just like in a wooden log.

Along with silica, there may be other minerals mixed in. These minerals can create different colors and patterns, making each piece unique. Some silicified wood might even contain sparkling crystals.

Coniferous Petrified Wood

Coniferous petrified wood comes from ancient conifer trees, like pines, firs, and spruces. It often shows the same patterns you’d find in the wood of today’s conifer trees.

You can sometimes see growth rings, just like in a fresh-cut log. These rings can tell us about the tree’s age and even what the weather was like when it was growing!

What’s inside this type of petrified wood? Along with the minerals that replaced the wood, you might find traces of the original tree’s structure. Conifers have special cells called “resin canals,” and these can sometimes be seen.

Petrified Fern

Petrified fern starts, not with a tree, but a fern plant that lived millions of years ago and has been preserved in a way that’s both beautiful and fascinating.

Imagine a leafy fern, with its delicate branches and feathery appearance. Now, picture that in stone! You can often see the exact shape of the leaves, called fronds, with all their tiny details and patterns.

Unlike trees, ferns are often soft and fragile, so finding them turned into stone is rare and exciting. Every tiny detail, from the shape of the leaves to the way the branches connect, is preserved forever in this rock.

How We Found Petrified Wood in Kentucky
Petrified wood can be pretty tough to find in our state if you aren’t strategic about your search. We’ve compiled a list of great locations where you can find it from a number of proven sources. These are the main inputs we used when determining the recommendations we set out :

  • The extensive local experience of our team
  • Input from a variety of local rockhounds and rockhound groups
  • The difficulty in accessing a location
  • Safety and potential hazards when collecting
  • Private and public locations
  • A desire to include locations for both the experienced and newbie hunters who are just starting out

Using these inputs we think we’ve put together the best list out there for those who love finding petrified wood for our collections!

Rock pick being used

The tools every petrified wood hunter will need

When you're out looking for petrified wood having the right tools for the job is really going to make or break your success. You don't need a lot for most trips but there are a handful that are critical and will make your life a lot easier.

We get asked a lot about the equipment we use. Over the years we've found a handful of tools that we recommend to both new and experienced petrified wood hunters which we outline in great detail in our complete rockhounding tools and kit guide. These are quality options that also happen to be relatively inexpensive.

Below are the basic tools that make your life so much easier and save you a ton of time. Check out the full guide to see everything we recommend bringing. One quick note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but we try very hard to only recommend gear we would use ourselves and often recommend brands you can't find on Amazon.

At a minimum you should have:

1 - Sturdy rock hammer: The Estwing Rock Pick is our standard

2 - Rugged chisels: Try Kendo' 3-piece Chisel Set

3 - Compact shovel: The Koleiya 28-inch shovel works well

4 - Rock screen pan: The Wazakura Soil Sieve Set fits the bill

5 - Eye protection: DeWalt Safety Glasses are cheap and comfortable

6 - Head protection: Malta's Safety Helmet has been our go-to

7 - Jewelers lens with at least 20x magnification: Jarlink's Jewelers Loop is perfect

The petrified wood-finding books that we use most

There are also a few books that have been extremely helpful in the search for gems. These books have great recommendations and tips:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals: North America 

Southeast Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide 

Earth Treasures: The Southeastern Quadrant 

We provide links to find these tools on Amazon but some can also be found at your local hardware stores. For more recommendations check out the link to our full tool guide above.

The Best Places To Find Petrified Wood In Kentucky

Kentucky is endowed with many great rockhounding spots, but not all of them contain petrified wood. So if you’re in the search for this natural wonder, check out our top recommended sites here:

Always Confirm Access and Collection Rules!

Before heading out to any of the locations on our list you need to confirm access requirements and collection rules for both public and private locations.

These requirements are subject to change without notice and may differ from what we state below.

Always get updated information directly from the source ahead of time to ensure responsible rockhounding.

Rowletts

Wide view of a river in Rowletts

Rowletts area is an adventurer’s dream, filled with interesting geography, terrain, and geology. Nestled in Hart County, it offers a mix of landscapes that hides beautiful Kentucky petrified woods.

It’s surrounded by a blend of hills and flatlands, with lush forests and open fields that create a picturesque setting. The Green River, which flows nearby, adds to the scenic beauty, carving its way through the landscape.

With this, Rowletts is home to unique rock formations and mineral deposits. Its underlying layers of limestone, sandstone, and shale create a fascinating geological puzzle.

If you’re interested to visit, this place is easily accessible by road. Just remember to respect our environment and adhere to our local collecting guidelines found on the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) website.

Where we found petrified wood in Rowletts

To find petrified wood, you can explore the road cut, banks, and stream gravels of Rowletts.

Ohio River

Aerial view of the stretch of Ohio River, its bridges and it surrounding lands

Ohio River is a major waterway that serves as a natural border between Kentucky and states like Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It stretches over 600 miles and winds its way through diverse landscapes.

This river flows westward, cutting through the northern part of our state. It joins with several tributaries along its course, creating a complex river system. Its banks are lined with everything from bustling cities to quiet, rural areas.

Geologically, the Ohio River offers a fascinating mix of rock types and formations. Limestone, which has been shaped by millions of years of water flow, is common here and it can contain fossils like petrified wood.

Luckily, this river is easy to reach, thanks to the well-connected roads and highways that run along or near it. Many cities and towns are also nestled along the Ohio River, offering easy access to parks, boat ramps, and viewing spots.

Where we found petrified wood in Ohio River

You can find petrified wood in the area beds and banks of the Ohio River.

Mayfield

An open field with trees in Mayfield

Mayfield sits in a region called the Jackson Purchase, and its unique features make it an exciting destination for exploration.

It’s close to the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, and the waterways around the area have shaped the land over time. Mayfield Creek, a smaller waterway, winds its way through the area, adding charm to the landscape.

The terrain here is a mixture of flat plains and gentle hills. The land is fertile, perfect for farming, but also offers great spots for outdoor activities. It stands on layers of sedimentary rocks like limestone and shale.

Thanks to well-maintained roads and highways that connect it to other parts of our state and neighboring states, getting to Mayfield is straightforward. Whether you’re coming by car or public transportation, this town is easily accessible.

Where we found petrified wood in Mayfield

You can collect silicified wood from the area clay pits of Mayfield.

Pryorsburg

One side of Pryorsburg showing a creek foregrounded by trees

Pryorsburg might be small in size but big on natural beauty and geological intrigue. It’s located in the western part of our state and offers an array of landscapes and features that make it an interesting spot to explore.

It lies near the meeting point of several waterways, including the nearby Tennessee River. This close proximity to water influences the area’s climate, wildlife, and even the shape of the land.

Surrounded by mostly gentle terrain, Pryorsburg is situated on top of layers of sedimentary rocks, such as limestone and sandstone. These layers hold petrified wood among other natural treasures.

Fortunately, getting here is practically a breeze. It’s well-connected by roads, making it accessible by car from various directions.

Where we found petrified wood in Pryorsburg

Silicified wood can be found here if you explore north on US-45 in Pryorsburg area.

Graves County

Forested area with a shallow creek in Graves County

Graves County, situated in the western part of our state, is a treasure trove of natural beauty and geological interest.

It’s marked by its rich farmlands and connection to significant waterways, such as the Tennessee River and the Mississippi River. This combination of fertile soil and access to water creates a diverse landscape, ranging from agricultural fields to wooded areas, all coming together in a picturesque setting.

Graves County’s topography supports diverse wildlife, and bird watchers or nature enthusiasts can enjoy a rich variety of flora and fauna here. Rockhounds are also in for a treat here as it’s built on layers of sedimentary rocks like limestone, sandstone, and shale.

Another great thing about this county is that there are well-maintained roads and highways that connect it to neighboring cities and counties.

Where we found petrified wood in the Graves County

You can find petrified wood all over Graves County, particularly in the area gravel and clay pits of Farmington, Hickory, Sedalia, and Viola.

Other Great Places To Find Kentucky Petrified Wood

A stunning slice of a petrified wood
Petrified wood photo provided by Stones & Bones Collection

If you’re looking for other options, here are a few other great sites where you can find petrified wood in Kentucky:

County Location
Jefferson North end of Louisville-Jeffersonville bridge
Jefferson Across the by-pass at east end of the park in Grinstead Avenue

General Areas You Should Try

Small piece of petrified wood showing beautiful grain patterns
Petrified wood photo provided by Time Vault Gallery

If you find yourself looking for petrified wood in broad or wide areas, make sure to pay attention to the following spots where they’re usually hidden:

River and River Banks

Rivers and riverbanks are fantastic spots to hunt for petrified woods.

Over time, rivers transport rocks and minerals, including petrified wood, from one place to another. As the water flows, it carries these fascinating geological treasures and deposits them along the banks.

In Kentucky, the rich geological history and the presence of different types of rocks make the riverbanks a hot spot for finding petrified wood.

Fresh Rock Exposures

When rocks are newly exposed, either through natural processes like erosion or human activities such as construction and mining, they reveal hidden layers that have been buried for millions of years.

Petrified wood can be found in these layers. When fresh rock exposures occur, they provide a unique opportunity to see what’s been hidden beneath the surface.

The newly uncovered material hasn’t been weathered or eroded, so it can contain well-preserved specimens of petrified wood.

Streams and Creeks

Streams and creeks act like nature’s conveyor belts, moving rocks and minerals from one location to another. Over time, they wash away softer materials, leaving behind harder substances like petrified wood.

Waterways like these in our state flow through areas with diverse geology, often uncovering ancient treasures. As the water moves and erodes the surrounding soil, it can reveal hidden pieces of petrified wood that were once part of ancient forests.

What’s more, the constant movement of water means that new finds can be uncovered regularly. Searching these areas is like going on a treasure hunt where the prizes can be different daily. What a treat!

Common Questions About Finding Petrified Wood In Kentucky

A beautiful piece of petrified wood showing white, yellow, and brown-colored wood details
Petrified wood photo provided by Stones & Bones Collection

In this section, we’ll answer some of the most common questions when it comes to finding Kentucky petrified wood:

How old is Petrified Wood in Kentucky

Petrified wood found in Kentucky often dates back hundreds of millions of years. Many pieces here are from the Carboniferous Period, a time that spans from about 359 to 299 million years ago.

During this era, our state was covered in vast swamps and dense forests, providing the perfect conditions for petrification. Exploring these ancient treasures offers a hands-on connection to a time when our landscape was home to a thriving, prehistoric ecosystem.

Can you find Petrified Palm Wood in Kentucky?

Finding petrified palm wood here is highly unlikely since our geological history and climate during the periods when petrification typically occurred don’t support the presence of palm trees.

Most of the petrified wood here comes from trees that thrived in the ancient forests and swamps of the Carboniferous Period, such as ferns and conifers. Palms typically grow in tropical and subtropical climates.

The Best Places To Buy Petrified Wood In Kentucky

A look at some of the specimens displayed at the GOLDHEART: Stones And Such

If you’re lacking time or do not have ample resources to go on a full-blown exploration for petrified wood in its natural environment, your next best option is to go to our local shops here.

Below are some of the best ones you can visit:

About Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He has worked as a professional Geologist for over 20 years and holds a PhD in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Bachelors Degree in Geology from the University of Connecticut.

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