I decide to visit the John Day Fossil Beds
There are three separate areas or 'units': Clarno, The Painted Hills, and The Sheep Rock unit.
Clarno has a very informative 1/4 mile interpretive walk from one parking/picnic area to another. One way to look at this is that every step you take, you travel back 17,000 years! In addition to the massive red cliffs, signs along the way describe how the area was formed, as subtropical forest with small 3-toed horses and wetland vegetation gave way to this current, arid landscape. Along the path you can see lots of leaf fossils preserved in the rock walls.
The Painted Hills unit has more, and longer, trails and overlooks of the area. 'Painted Hills' is an apt description!
For my money, the most spectacular area is Sheep Rock. There is a visitors center (check the hours- the sequester has caused some cutbacks) which is also a paleontology museum. Most amazing to me was the presence of a blue green layer of rock - really, it was mint green! I've never seen anything like it.
Blue Basin has a short 1/4 mile trail into an amphitheater surrounded by blue cliffs; there is also a longer 3.5 mile walk around the rim - neither is suitable for dogs as there are frequent metal bridged areas that could cut feet.
Cathedral rock is another imposing feature seen from the highway (395) as you head north away from Sheep Rock.
The roads linking the 3 units and beyond are designated 'the Journey through time scenic byway' - and it more than lives up to its name. Unfortunately, the roads are generally narrow, winding and slow - so its better to be a passenger than a driver - I was riveted on not driving off the road.
The day ends, not in geological 'long time', but in savoring the moment.
My day ends listening to a river and the birds who live near it. So hard to grasp the long time when life is lived one short moment at a time.
|Shelton Wayside Park, east of Fossil, OR|