One of RN 3’s most desolate stretches is the 350 kilometers between Caleta Olivia  and Puerto San Julián , but just north of the halfway point there’s an incomparable detour to this 13,700-hectare badlands.
In Jurassic times, before the Andes rose in the west, this was a humid region of coniferous Proaraucaria woodlands. After volcanic eruptions flattened the forests and buried them in ash 130 million years ago, water and wind gradually uncovered the now-petrified trunks.
Measuring up to three meters in diameter and 35 meters in length, Proaraucaria was a forerunner of the Andean araucaria. Until 1954, when the area became a natural monument (meriting Argentina’s highest possible level of protection), the best and biggest specimens were regularly looted. Proposed additions would increase the protected area to 60,000 hectares.
Solitary Bosques Petrificados, 50 kilometers west of RN 3 via graveled RP 49, gets only a few thousand visitors per year, mostly in summer. In addition to its petrified forests, it has desert steppe vegetation and wildlife including guanacos and rheas. It has no water, and there is no public transportation, but Puerto Deseado operators will organize excursions to the site.
For camping, try Estancia La Paloma, roughly midway between RN 3 and the forest.
For more information, contact Caleta Olivia’s APN office (Hipólito Irigoyen 2044, tel. 0297/485-1000, bosquespetrificados [at] apn [dot] gov [dot] ar).