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The appropriately named "Painted Hills" are one of the three units that make up the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The Painted Hills are located on 3,132 acres 9 miles northwest of Mitchell and 75 miles east of Bend.
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is a 14,000 acre park near Kimberly, Oregon. Located within the John Day River Basin, this U.S. National Monument is world-renowned for its well-preserved, remarkably complete record of fossil plants and animals, a record that spans more than 40 of the 65 million years of the Cenozoic Era (also known as the Age of Mammals and Flowering Plants). The monument is divided into three units: Painted Hills (named for the delicately colored stratifications) northwest of Mitchell, Sheep Rock which is northwest of Dayville, and Clarno which is 20 miles west of Fossil. Blue Basin is a volcanic ash bowl transformed into claystone by eons of erosion, colored pastel blue by minerals.
The fossil beds contain vestiges of the actual soils, rivers, ponds, watering holes, mudslides, ashfalls, floodplains, middens, trackways, prairies, and forests, in an unbroken sequence that is one of the longest continuous geological records. The rocks are rich with the evidence of ancient habitats and the dynamic processes that shaped them; they tell of sweeping changes in the John Day Basin. Great changes, too, have taken place in this area's landscape, climate, and in the kinds of plants and animals that have inhabited it.
This area's National Monument status was authorized October 26, 1974 and established in 1975.
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 did, 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 Trail [begins at the Painted Hills Overlook, 1/2 mile hike] – This trail provides glimpses of the colorful Painted Hills from several angles. Benches are along the trail. 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.
Carroll Rim Trail [begins from the Painted Hills Overlook, 1 ½ mile hike] – The trail ascends a few hundred feet in elevation to rimrocks that overlook the entire area, offering a bird’s-eye view of the Painted Hills. A bench to relax and enjoy the view is at the end of the trail.
Painted Cove Trail [1/4 mile hike] – A third of trail is a boardwalk, accessible to those in wheelchairs. Here, one can actually walk among the red and gold claystone hills. Bring your camera! Interpretive signs illuminate the geologic story.
Leaf Hill Trail [1/4 mile hike] – One half of the trail is accessible to those in wheelchairs. This drab looking hill was the scene of important scientific studies in the 1920’s and 1990’s. Thousands of leaf fossils found here helped give us our first glimpse of an ancient ecosystem 33 million years in age. A few fossils are on exhibit.
Walking on the hills is strictly prohibited, please respect the landscape.
To log this cache there are 2 requirements. First, post a picture of yourself and your GPSr with the Painted Hills or another known feature in the background. Second, do some research and email me the correct answers to three (3) of the following questions: Please do not post your answers in your log.
1)What are the Painted Hills made of?
2)How were claystones formed?
3)What causes the colors in the Painted Hills?
4)Why aren’t plants growing on the Painted Hills?
5)What plants succeed and when/where do they grow?
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