John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Named for the John Day River in northwest Oregon, the John Day Fossil Beds provide a nearly continuous geologic history dating back six to 54 million years. This takes up most of the Cenozoic Age, when mammals became dominant among other animal life forms. Geologist Thomas Condon discovered the site in the latter half of the 19th century; since then over 320 genera of plant and animal fossils have been identified here. Some of the more exotic-sounding species include three-toed horses and saber-toothed tigers. The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is divided into three units spread out over a large area: Painted Hills, Clarno, and Sheep Rock. In the Painted Hills Unit, hiking trails lead through red claystone hills formed eons ago by volcanic activity. The Clarno Unit formations are the oldest among the three units and contain the eroded palisades, petrified logs, and the Clarno Arch. The Sheep Rock Unit is also served by nature trails and is the location of the National Park Service headquarters and visitor center. What to see and do: Visitors to John Day Fossil Beds are restricted to trails in protected areas of the site, but if you want to get a closer look at the collection of plant and animal fossils, stop in at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center at Sheep Rock Unit for interpretive exhibits, programs, books, and other information. Staff members are available to answer questions and to lead walks and hikes throughout the summer. It's open daily except during winter holidays. Call for seasonal hours. A quarter mile away, the Cant Ranch Museum offers exhibits on human settlement in the area. At the Painted Hills Unit, the Leaf Hill, Carroll Rim, and Painted Cove hiking trails will lead you to scenic areas of the site. Some trails are handicapped-accessible; call for details. The Trail of the Fossils in the Clarno Unit takes you past fossilized leaves, branches, and stems, all indicating that the climate here millions of years ago was more tropical. The Sheep Rock Unit, anchored by its 1,000-foot namesake, contains eight trails, including the Blue Basin Overlook Trail and the Island in Time Trail. These trails take you over actual blue-green terrain. Some of the activities offered are picnicking, mountain biking and fishing; hunting is prohibited. Rangers recommend that you wear a pair of sturdy hiking boots and call ahead for weather information. Weather patterns often change quickly in the mountains and temperatures soar as high as the upper 90s in summer. The paleontology center at the Sheep Rock Unit is located ten miles west of Dayville, the Painted Hills Unit is situated ten miles west of Mitchell, and the Clarno Unit is located 20 miles west of Fossil. Lodging can be found in these surrounding towns, and campgrounds are available on nearby national forest land. Leashed pets are permitted.
32651 State Hwy 19
- Oregon, United States of America 97848
- 44.55545000, -119.64520300
- Visit Website
- (541) 987-2333