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Washington State Gem

Washington is among the few states that don’t have an official mineral or rock. However, it calls petrified wood its state gem. The state’s most famous fossilized wood is found in Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, located near the center of the state.

The Columbian mammoth was adopted as Washington’s state fossil. It also represents South Carolina, while Nebraska adopted all mammoth species.

Washington State Fossil(Skeleton: By WolfmanSF – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, link (Note: I modified this image, erasing the background.)

A candidate that wasn’t even considered is the world famous Blue Lake rhino.

In 1935, two Seattle couples hiking near Blue Lake in Eastern Washington stumbled across an unusual basalt cave. Its shape resembled that of a large, upside down animal. They also found a few bones and teeth.

After learning of the discovery, scientists examined the evidence and pieced together an amazing story.

About 15 million years ago, a small, two-horned rhinoceros’ (Diceratherium) daily routine was interrupted by a volcanic explosion. Or perhaps it was already dead when the volcano erupted.

Either way, lava flowed around the animal’s corpse, which was floating upside down in a lake. After the lava hardened, the soft tissues inside slowly disappeared, leaving a cast of a rhinoceros.

Washington State Fossil

A replica of the Blue Lake rhino cave is on display at Seattle’s Burke Museum. The original cave remains where it was discovered in Dry Falls State Park, near Coulee City. (Reaching it reportedly takes a bit of nerve.)

So which would make a better state fossil, a spectacular mammoth shared with South Carolina or a spectacular fossil that few people have even heard of?

Win or lose, the Blue Lake rhino should have at least been one of the candidates. However, an arrogant school board member who knew nothing about fossils ran the state fossil campaign.

In 2012, the fossilized piece of an ancient femur was discovered on a beach at Sucia Island State Park in San Juan County, Washington. The femur belonged to a theropod, a group of carnivorous dinosaurs that include Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor. What is now Washington was covered by the sea when the animal lived, some 80 million years ago. Therefore, scientists reason its body must have been washed out to sea, where its bones sank to the bottom of the sea, coming to rest in what is now Western Washington.

In 2023, the ancient creature, dubbed Suciasaurus rex, was adopted as Washington’s official state dinosaur.

Washington State Dinosaur

Soil ˆ

Washington’s unofficial state soil is Tokul. It was the first state soil that was formed out of volcanic ash.

Although Tokul soils can be used in agriculture, they are best known for the vast forestlands they nurture.

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