MITCHELL – The Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument gained some notoriety this year when it was named one of the “7 Wonders of Oregon” by Travel Oregon.
Sweeping bands of colors in yellow, red, black and gold, show off nature’s paintbrush on these rolling hills.
The changing light throughout the day dramatically affects the hues, but visitors can expect the best conditions for photography in the late afternoon.
Fossil Beds Superintendent Shelley Hall said the extra notoriety of the Painted Hills has boosted their visitor counts.
“The numbers for the month of June are up 60 percent at the Painted Hills,” she said, adding visitorship is up 5 percent for the year overall at the Fossil Beds.
The Painted Hills Unit is located nine miles northwest of Mitchell with entrance on Burnt Ranch Road, six miles north of its junction with Highway 26.
While there is no visitor center at this unit, there is a picnic area and several trails, including the Painted Cove Trail.
DAYVILLE – The Thomas Condon Paleontology Center is the perfect jumpoff site when exploring the wonders of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
The visitors center offers an extensive fossil collection with the feel of prehistoric times brought to life with murals and animal sounds.
A paleontologist can usually be seen at work in the laboratory, chipping carefully away at embedded fossils – zoomed in, on a big screen TV mounted on the wall.
To find the visitor center from Dayville, travel seven miles west on Highway 26. In Picture Gorge, turn north onto Highway 19 and travel about two miles to the center.
Fossil Beds Monument is divided into three units: the Sheep Rock, Painted Hills and Clarno.
The visitor center is located in the Sheep Rock Unit, in Grant County.
Across the highway from the center is the historic Cant Ranch Museum, which also serves as the Fossil Beds headquarters.
The museum was once the home of James and Elizabeth Cant who bought the land, approximately 700 acres, from the Officer family in 1910. The museum displays many of the family’s original furnishings, as well as other artifacts. The property features the River Trail and Sheep Rock Overlook Trail.
A fascinating Story in Stone hike, three miles north of the visitors center, offers breathtaking views of blue-green claystone formations which contain fossils. The trail is 1/4 mile, round trip.
“People say ‘I had no idea how amazing this place is,’” said Fossil Beds Superintendent Shelley Hall. “It really is a world class facility and world class fossils resource right here in Grant County.”
Visitor Center hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week. On Sept. 2, after Labor Day, the hours change to 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, call 541-987-2333 or visit www.nps.gov/joda.