F is for...Fossil Beds

The first week of the A-Z Blogging Challenge is at an end and, congratulations, we've made it!  To end the first week of my Oregon posts, I'm taking everyone across the state to Eastern Oregon to visit the...

Fossil Beds

The Fossil Beds, properly named the John Day Fossil Beds, are located in the John Day Basin in Oregon.  They cover roughly 13,944 acres in the central/eastern part of the state.  Represented in the area are three separate geographical units (Sheep Rock, Painted Hills, and Clarno) and fossilized remains from the late Eocene and Miocene eras (44 millions years ago and 7 millions years ago, respectively).  Nearly 125,000 people visit the park each year for such activities as sightseeing and hiking and to experience the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center.  Roughly 2200 feet above sea-level, the climate can range from the upper 90s in the summer months to below freezing during the winter.  Typically, the climate is dry and the semi-desert terrain supports several types of animals and plants.

Sheep Rock (right)
Sheep Rock encompasses the majority of the area with about 8843 acres and is made up of layers of blue-green layers of millions of years worth of volcanic ash. 

The Painted Hills, the middle of the three sites which cover about 3132 acres, are so named because of the multi-layered colors of reds, yellows, golds, and blacks beautifully captured in photographs in the late afternoons.


Clarno is the western most section of the area and it covers about 1969 acres of land and was formed when a series of volcanic mudflows flooded the area, preserving a multitude of trees, plants, and animals in what was once a near-tropical forest some 44 million years ago.  Embedded in the layers of volcanic rock, you can find fossilized remains of long-forgotten animals.

 Entrance to the park, museum, and exhibits is free for all who visit, but there is no food, camping, lodging, or fuel in the park, but can be found in the surrounding towns.  The park is open year-round during daylight hours, but cell service is limited to non-existent.  Pets are allowed in the park as long as they are on leashes and horses are allowed in specified areas.  Removing fossils from the park is strictly prohibited, but fossil theft is an ongoing problem that the Park Service faces.  Regardless of you interests, the John Day Fossil Bed National Park is worth the time to visit...even if it is in the middle of nowhere.

Happy weekend, fellow A-Zers.  See you all on Monday!


  1. Sounds fascinating! I love anything to do with fossils. Those Painted Hills look quite otherworldly.

    1. Fossils are so amazing! I haven't been to the Painted Hills in years...maybe it's time I go back.

  2. Interesting! I'll be in Oregon later this year so I'll keep this in mind. Thanks.

    1. Definitely keep the Fossil Beds on your list as a possibility!


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