Petrified Tree Stumps
60 million years ago, the landscape of western North Dakota consisted of broad lowlands with large rivers and swamps along with vast forest of redwood and cypress trees (Taxodiaceae). The silt-laden rivers often flooded, burying the tree bases in mud. When the trees died, the main trunk and branches were carried downstream leaving the buried trunks behind. Later, volcanoes erupting to the west provided silica-rich ash which, in solution, percolated underground, gradually replacing the wood, producing the petrified tree stumps which were found in the Binek Coal Mine.
The Binek Coal Mine, started by Frank Binek, began operation in 1918. The mines were underground until 1946 when strip mining began. Annual coal reports record that 500,000 tons of coal were mined underground using pick, shovel and mule teams.
Ted Binek, son of Frank, was involved in coal mining his entire life. The twelve petrified stumps on display in Prairie Outpost Park are just a small part of his collection of over 100. They were obtained during a 25 year span. The stumps were found about 70 feet below the surface while strip mining for the Husky Briquette plant located southeast of Dickinson. Heavy equipment used in the mining operation would strike the huge fossilized stumps which were still rooted in the coal, and dynamite was used to break the roots. Crews worked around the stump until it was entirely exposed. Loaders or cranes moved the stumps to the Binek Coal Mine operations site.
The petrified stumps in Prairie Outpost Park total over 50,000 pounds with the largest weighing over 12,000 pounds. They were moved from the Binek Coal Mine on October 22, 1994.