"JOHN DAY FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT" John Day Fossil Beds National Monument by mtncorg

Three separate units in central Oregon were united into one National Monument in 1975 as the John Day Fossil Beds NM. The units are separated by over 100 miles of road and each unit is a bit distinct from the others. The first paleontologist making the area known was Thomas Condon, an amateur geologist and full-time Congregational minister from The Dalles. His discoveries excited the late 19th century American pale ontological establishment. His stature grew such that Oregon governor La Fayette Grover promoted Condon to the post of State Geologist - a first for Oregon. This led to his departure from the clergy and on to a post as professor of geology at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

The separate units are unique enough that, with time, you should venture to each. Fossil collecting is not allowed in the park units so to collect some 30 million year impressions of subtropical forests, I direct you to the fossil beds behind the football field of Wheeler High School in the little nearby town of Fossil. Fossils are best seen at the Condon Paleontological Center a few miles north of US 26 in the Sheep Head unit. There are also exhibits to be found along the trails in each of the three units. The fossils date back to 18 to 39 million years with large fossils being mammalian. Older fossils are found at Clarno while some rock formations in the park dates to around 100 million years of age.

This is a little visited region of Oregon, but it is an area of genuine beauty with interesting historical contexts from both the 19th century and more modern times.

  • Last visit to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument: Sep 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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