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Petrified Wood Park

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1930–1932, Ole S. Quammen; 1989 museum addition. 500 Main Ave.
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)

Occupying a city block in downtown Lemmon is Petrified Wood Park, the brainchild of amateur geologist Ole S. Quammen. In 1926, Quammen began making plans for an outdoor museum to display the abundant samples of petrified wood, stones, and fossils found in northwest South Dakota, an area covered by shallow seas during the Paleocene epoch, approximately 66 to 56 million years ago.

Work on the park began in 1930 and provided much needed jobs during the early years of the Great Depression. All of the materials used in the project were gathered within a 25-mile radius of Lemmon. The park consists of more than 3,200 tons of petrified wood, 100 tons of petrified grasses, and several tons of “cannonball” stones from a nearby river in North Dakota.

The specimens are either displayed in the condition in which they were found, or cemented together to form various-sized conical pyramids, pillars, and other configurations—some up to 32 feet tall. On the north side of the park are three buildings constructed of petrified wood. The Castle, named for its many spires and turrets, is an octagonal structure built of more than 300 tons of petrified material, including dinosaur and mammoth bones. Dinosaur claws, fossilized snakes, and bird tracks are imprinted on the surfaces. On display are artifacts and antiques from Lemmon. A second building, also made of petrified logs, houses a park museum and its flooring is made of petrified grasses; a late 1980s addition was also built of locally gathered petrified wood. A gas station, similarly constructed of petrified wood, marked the northeast corner of the property, and served the many tourists arriving via automobile. Since its opening, Petrified Wood Park was a boon to the area’s tourist industry and helped drive commercial development in downtown Lemmon. The park originally straddled the old Yellowstone Trail as it passed through town; now U.S. 12, the highway was later rerouted to the south side of town.

Petrified Wood Park has been owned and operated by the town of Lemmon since 1954, when it was donated by the Quammen family. The gas station housed the Chamber of Commerce for a time but now serves as the park’s gift shop.


  Gerloff, Scott, “Lemmon Petrified Park,” Perkins County, South Dakota. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1975. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

The Lemmon Aide. Lemmon, SD: Print Shop, 2014.

Writing Credits

Michelle L. Dennis



  • 1930

  • 1989

    Museum addition


Michelle L. Dennis, "Petrified Wood Park", [Lemmon, South Dakota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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