It all began with a coffee-table book. We were shopping in Calgary (I’m guessing it was for kitchen stuff), and at some point I noticed Tyler had drifted into the travel book section. I found him sitting on the floor paging through a book with the natural wonders of the world in it. Pretty soon I was sitting on the floor too, captivated by all the neat places to go and see. The John Day Fossil Beds were listed in the book, with pictures of the Painted Hills, and that got the ball rolling for the whole Oregon trip.
So here we are at the Painted Hills section. The John Day Fossil beds are comprised of three separate units. The Painted Hills are beautifully colored bentonite clay and volcanic ash deposited in striping, over the course of time. The Clarno and Sheep Rock Units are fossil beds with a great variety of species from the past. We went to the Painted Hills and the Clarno Unit. The Painted Hills were by far our favorite. Maybe that’s because neither one of us is too interested in fossils.
The colors are so varied and beautiful. The Painted Hills got their name from the different layers of color that formed from different geological eras. Much of this area is semi-desert like conditions, but they have found fossils in the different units indicating a tropical time period. It’s hard to imagine when you’re standing in the dust looking out over sage brush and what looks like mountains of colored sand.
They have built walking trails to help prevent erosion of the hills. As you can see in the picture, they are just different types of soil and they are really fragile.
I love this photo with the three colors right in a row. It does make a person wonder when you see something like this. The beauties of nature never cease to amaze me.
This is probably the most photographed range of the Painted Hills.
Note: The best time of day to photograph this section is late afternoon to early evening. We didn’t know this and arrived here first thing in the morning. The photo was taken pointed right at the sun. The colors would have been more intense with the afternoon light of the sun. I just thought that I would mention that because I would’ve liked to have known that little bit of info before we went.
Later that day, we drove to the Clarno Unit. It was even more desert like here with the temperature well over 100F.
We took the trail of fossils, and as you can see in the photo below we saw a few leaves and some petrified wood. Honestly, not really of interest to us but the overall picture of a different time was interesting and the scenery was good.
It is here in this unit that they have found fossils of all sorts of tropical plants from another era. Great volcanic eruptions encased much of the plant and animal life of the time turning the area into desert like conditions.
This unit was neat to see passing through on our way to another place, but unless you’re really into geology I probably wouldn’t recommend going out of your way. We really like the Painted Hills though, it was a little more up our alley with more scenery and less science.
See you next week as we head north for Portland and Mount St. Helens.