John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, John Day

4.8
#26 of 252 in Nature in Oregon
Must see · National Park · Nature / Park
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John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is a U.S. national monument in Wheeler and Grant counties in east-central Oregon. Located within the John Day River basin and managed by the National Park Service, the park is known for its well-preserved layers of fossil plants and mammals that lived in the region between the late Eocene, about 45 million years ago, and the late Miocene, about 5 million years ago. The monument consists of three geographically separate units: Sheep Rock, Painted Hills, and Clarno.

The units cover a total of 13,944 acres (5,643 ha) of semi-desert shrublands, riparian zones, and colorful badlands. About 210,000 people visited the park in 2016 to engage in outdoor recreation or to visit the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center or the James Cant Ranch Historic District.

Before the arrival of Euro-Americans in the 19th century, the John Day basin was frequented by Sahaptin people who hunted, fished, and gathered roots and berries in the region. After road-building made the valley more accessible, settlers established farms, ranches, and a few small towns along the river and its tributaries. Paleontologists have been unearthing and studying the fossils in the region since 1864, when Thomas Condon, a missionary and amateur geologist, recognized their importance and made them known globally. Parts of the basin became a National Monument in 1975.

Averaging about 2,200 feet (670 m) in elevation, the monument has a dry climate with temperatures that vary from summer highs of about 90 °F (32 °C) to winter lows below freezing. The monument has more than 80 soil types that support a wide variety of flora, ranging from willow trees near the river to grasses on alluvial fans to cactus among rocks at higher elevations. Fauna include more than 50 species of resident and migratory birds. Large mammals like elk and smaller animals such as raccoons, coyotes, and voles frequent these units, which are also populated by a wide variety of reptiles, fish, butterflies, and other creatures adapted to particular niches of a mountainous semi-desert terrain.
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John Day Fossil Beds National Monument reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
455 reviews
Google
4.8
TripAdvisor
  • The photos you've seen do not lie! These hills are intensely colored and you feel like you are in Southern Utah or Norther Arizona! You do have to drive a bit to get them and the paved road ends at....  more
    The photos you've seen do not lie! These hills are intensely colored and you feel like you are in Southern Utah or Norther Arizona! You do have to drive a bit to get them and the paved road ends at....  more »
  • Heard of the place for q while and finally got there. It was a nice visit with a few attraction spots. After 6 files from US 26 into the Painted Hills, the roads were not paved - be prepared. The.....  more
    Heard of the place for q while and finally got there. It was a nice visit with a few attraction spots. After 6 files from US 26 into the Painted Hills, the roads were not paved - be prepared. The.....  more »
Google
  • Every National Park deserves for you to stop and to checked it out. This one is no exception. Unfortunately most of the kiosks were closed because of the time of the year and because of covid-19. Overall the park is beautiful and the colors were fantastic. I would definitely come back and visit it again.
  • Astondingly beautiful and awesome in revealing 44 million years of geological history. They said Morning views are better than evening, but we found mid day with whitest light brought out the green and blue colors best. Go anytime though. Short hike up to viewing benches is worth every step.

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