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Puyango Petrified Forest, Ecuador

Learn all about Puyango Petrified Forest, the largest petrified forest deposit of the Americas, in a fantastic reserve with excellent trails and fossils of other animals & plants. When the sea dried up the area became covered with  forests. Some of the trees and plants became petrified, when they were covered with sediments. Millions of years later, those fossils  rose to the surfaced again with the rising of the Andes. The ages of the fossils vary from 60 million 500 million years old.


The Araucarioxylon genus is the most common species and dates back some 100 million years; The largest trunk is 2 m wide and 15 m long. Fossilized leaves represent 4 genera of primitive ferns and palms. The paleobotanist who discovered the petrified foerwst, Dr. Robert E. Shoemaker, carried out investigations from 1975 to 1976. With so many petrified trees concentrated in such a small area it is considered one of the largest petrified forest remains in the world. The importance of the reserve is comparable to Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park in the United States.

PUYANGO PETRIFIED FOREST, ECUADOR: EntrancePUYANGO PETRIFIED FOREST, ECUADOR: Visitor center: Locations of the 3 principle petrified forests in the Americas.

The entrance of the reserve.

Visitor center: Locations of the 3 principle petrified forests in the Americas.


Getting there

The reserve is located, on the banks of the Puyango River at 111 km from Machala and 280 km from the city of Loja.



The Petrified Forest of Puyango was legally declared  a protected forest by ministerial decree No. 002 on January 9, 1987, totalling ​​2658 ha of  which only about 100 ha are fully protected with a vegetation recovery program. The rest of the area is privately owned.

On August 15, 2002, in the context of decentralization, deconcentration and transfer of functions, powers, responsibilities, management and control was transferred to the Provincial Council of Loja.


The trail

The guided walk takes anywhere between half an hour and an hour. Some fossils are found on the banks of a stream with clean and clear water, where you will find enormous trunks that correspond to the Jurassic period which had its greatest development about 120 billion years ago.



The trail head starting at the visitor center.

At only 5 minutes walk there is an overlook along a creek, where several fossils have been washed up.


PUYANGO PETRIFIED FOREST, ECUADOR: Petrified tree transversal slice of 2 m diameter.PUYANGO PETRIFIED FOREST, ECUADOR: Fossil plant prints.

One of the larger trunks along the creek.

Along the creek one finds fossil prints of tree leaves.


PUYANGO PETRIFIED FOREST, ECUADOR: The site with the greatest number of fallen fossil trees.PUYANGO PETRIFIED FOREST, ECUADOR: A different un-identified fossil tree species.

The site with the greatest number of fallen fossil trees.

A different un-identified fossil tree species.


At the end of the trail, is of one of the largest and best preserved petrified trees in the entire reserve with an approximate original length of 80 meters by about 8 meters in diameter, about one third of which you will find on the ground.


PUYANGO PETRIFIED FOREST, ECUADOR: The Giant, an enormously tall and wide tree is the highlight of the reserve.PUYANGO PETRIFIED FOREST, ECUADOR: The Giant showing its full visible length.

The Giant, an enormously tall and wide tree is the highlight of the reserve.

The Giant showing its full visible length.



The forest is located between 360 and 500 meters above sea level and has an average temperature of 22.5 grados C.

The vegetation is a typical tropical seasonally deciduous forest with very little rainfall during the dry season from May to December. Most of the yearly 900mm of rainfall falls between January to April. While officially recommended for visiting during the dry season, I don't agree at all. During the wet season the forest is beautifully green, and a bit of a drizzle should not spoil your joy. So, visiting year around is my recommendation.



Some enormeous petrinos trees, Cavanillesia Platanifolia, of which the tallest, the about 300 year old "Giant", stands 35 m tall and 2 m at the base. Other conspicuous trees are ceibos, potos, guapala, pechiche, hualtaco, puyangos, guayacanes, laureles, guasimos, caciques, cedros, palo santo, fig, limoncillo, almendro, etc. Small trees and shrubs include: amancay, vines, orchids, chaquiro, pastos, ortiga, matico and many that flower in the dry season with an abundance of flowers, which is typical for decidous try tropical forest.


PUYANGO PETRIFIED FOREST, ECUADOR: The roots of a Petrinos Tree.PUYANGO PETRIFIED FOREST, ECUADOR: Petrinos trees have superficial rings that grow every few years.

The roots of a Petrinos Tree.

Petrinos trees have superficial rings that grow every few years.


PUYANGO PETRIFIED FOREST, ECUADOR: The tallest petrinos tree of the reserve. PUYANGO PETRIFIED FOREST, ECUADOR: The widest petrinos tree of the reserve.

The tallest petrinos tree of the reserve.

The widest petrinos tree of the Petrified Forest of Puyango Reserve.


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