Friday, October 5, 2018

10/3 Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Amazing.  I went over a week without posting because I had nothing to post, and now I have too much to post!

Anyway, here the second part of October 3rd.  My big stop this day was the visitor center which is named after the person who did most of the collecting here in the 1800s and who was the first State Geologist in Oregon. (Unlike John Day, he came to Oregon later in the century and so did not get robbed of his belongings and clothing by the natives.)

I have been to a lot of museums and visitor centers in my six years of travel, but I was really impressed by this one and learned a lot I did not know about this area.  First, there are three parts to this national monument that are widely separated.  That is because the monument encompasses three unique fossil areas.  The main one where the visitor center is located is called the Sheep Rock Unit. 

Oregon has some unique fossil collecting areas because of the number of volcanoes and eruptions of ash that covered and protected the plants and animals that lived between 54 million and 20 million years ago.  

Not a huge museum, but big enough and nicely done. 

The view from the patio shows some of the areas which are still being explored today.  Only about 3% of the fossils here have been found, so there is still lots of digging by students and researchers. 

This shows you where the various layers are located.  You can see how large an area these cover. 

The oldest area is the Clarno nut beds.  After volcanic ash became saturated with water, it was common to have lahars, which are mud slides that pick up and carry trees and plants. At the bottom of a mud slide, fossil hunters have found concentrated areas of early trees and plants.  Some examples of these early trees and plants are shown in the photo two slides below. 

The next era was the Hancock Quarry, about 40 million years ago. 

There were some strange-looking mammals back then, including some that looked like rhinos and other animals that live in wet and hot areas now. 

More recently, at about 33 million years ago, was the Bridge Creek Flora area.

The Turtle Cove period was about 29 million years ago.

And the Kimberly era was about 24 million years ago.

And the Haystack Valley era was only 20 million years ago.

I could have spent more time, but I was worried about getting a camping spot for the night.  I will come back here maybe next spring or summer.


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