Exit 136 off I-90, Vantage, Washington
Specimens from one of the world’s most spectacularly varied fossil forests can be seen here on a 7,470-acre site that encompasses prehistoric swamp and lake beds repeatedly inundated by lava. Felled trees from the dense forests of the Miocene Epoch—not just the ginkgo for which the park is named, but some 200 other species—were preserved beneath the solidified basalt, gradually turning to brilliantly colored stone as mineral deposits replaced their cell structure. Ice Age erosion brought them to light again.
Now cross-sections of the fossilized logs can be seen in the park’s Heritage Area Interpretive Center, along with an array of intelligently planned explanatory exhibits. The area also contains a number of delicate Native American carvings incised in black basalt. You can see logs in their original setting by taking either of the hikes through the Natural Area, the first a three-quarter-mile interpretive trail, the second a 21/2-mile trek. It’s a good idea to make your camping headquarters at Wana-pum Recreation Area, which is located within the park three miles south of Vantage on the shore of the Columbia River.
Park open daily Apr. – Oct.; weekends and holidays only Nov. – Mar. Camping fee. Interpretive center open daily, Memorial Day–Labor Day.