Today we visited John Day Fossil Beds National Monument which is located about 2 hours east of Bend. The park is known for its well-preserved layers of fossil plants and mammals that lived in the region between the late Eocene, about 45 million years ago, and the late Miocene, about 5 million years ago. The monument consists of three geographically separate units: Sheep Rock, Painted Hills, and Clarno.
We visited the Painted Hills unit today (as you might have guessed from the pictures). The geologic formations are 33 million years old. The black soil is lignite that was vegetative matter that grew along the floodplain. The grey coloring is mudstone, siltstone and shale. The red coloring is laterite soil that formed by floodplain deposits when the area was warm and humid. An abundance of fossil remains of early horses, camels, and rhinoceroses in the Painted Hills unit makes the area particularly important to vertebrate paleontologists.
We plan to visit the other two units next year when we drive up to Washington (they are another hour further away from Bend) and yes Don has already planned next year.