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John Day Fossil Beds - Painted Hills Unit

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Painted Hills tells the story of what the life and landscape of John Day country was like about 30 million years ago. Painted Hills contains fossil evidence that the environment of the time was different from todays. Fossilized wood, leaf-prints, and the few animal fossils found from this period indicate that the climate of the region at this time was temperate. The Cascade Range had begun to rise, and as it had, weather patterns had slowly changed, reducing rainfall to about 150 centimeters (60 inches) a year. During this period volcanic eruptions continued to occur. The fossils of this time are preserved in shaly rock formed from volcanic ash deposited in ancient streambeds. The fossil record shows that members of the now-extinct family of oreodonts, short-legged browsers, dwelled in the forest. Plants included Quercus consimilis, an early oak, and Umbellularia oregonensis, a close relative of the present-day Oregon-myrtle. Metasequoia occidentalis, or dawn redwood, a tree similar to a rare redwood now found in China, grew here, too, as did the alder Alnus carpinoides.

There are several, short hiking trails in this unit that gives close-up views of the brightly colored lower John Day Formation. A picnic area near the entrance provides restrooms, water shaded picnic tables, and exhibits.

Painted Hills Overlook and Trail, gives a wide-angle view of the color-splashed hummocks and hills which are the eroded remnants of the lower John Day Formation. The weathering of volcanic ash under varying climatic regimes resulted in vividly-hued rock layers of red, pink bronze tan and black. Walking on the hills is strictly prohibited, please respect the landscape.

          - John Day Fossil Beds Official Guide

From Prineville, Oregon take HW26 east about 60 miles until you reach Bridge Creek Road to the north. Take this road for about 7 miles north and you will reach the monument.

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