The story of the John Day National Monument begins around 45 million years ago, 20 million years after the dinosaur extinction. With 90% of dinosaur species vanished, resources were abundant leaving many niches for mammals to overtake. Rocks within the John Day Formation tell the dramatic tale of a 40 million year reign (from 45-5 million years ago) were a diversity of mammal species rose and fell with rapidly fluxing climate changes. Perhaps most compelling, finding fossils of animals not traditionally thought of as native to Oregon… Exotics like horses, elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, and camels. Looking over the paleosols and badlands it is difficult to contemplate how the terrain might have looked at various points in the last 45 million years. Grasslands, swamps, deserts, ice sheets, and jungles all coalesced to create this landscape in Central Oregon’s backyard.
This my 10 year anniversary since first visiting the monument as a sophomore in college, the trip which culminated in a major change to geology, I understand what drove Thomas Condon to document these hills and all they contain.