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06/04/12 - The John Day Fossil Beds - Clarno

On our drive back north from Sisters, we followed the Deschutes River through some pretty remote country. There were a lot of grain silos and small towns and not a lot of gas stations. In fact, one of the liveliest looking towns we drove through was Shaniko which is technically a ghost town and uninhabited. (We aren't sure how this works.)

We took a side trip off the road to the Clarno unit of the John Day Fossil Beds, the smallest of the three parts of the beds. We crossed the John Day River and were soon greeted by a little picnic area and a handful of interpretive signs. We were surrounded by castles of stone, the eroding rock layers visible.

The fossil trail was short and led towards the base of the castle wall which rocks had fallen over the ages. They were mottled and marred by age. The little signs insisted that they were full of fossils. We looked, and we looked. Was that dark mark a leaf? Was that indentation a branch? It was hard to tell, but we soon realized that it was not the color of rock or its markings, but rather the texture that revealed ancient leaves and twigs and branches.

Once we had made this cognitive jump, we could see other fossils more quickly, and our walk grew more interesting. We almost brushed away one fossil leaf save that it was now part of the stone. We probably missed more fossils than we saw, but after the replicas at Sheeprock, seeing actual fossils in the living rock was quite a treat.

It really is in the middle of nowhere. One of the few other visitors was a local who just stopped to use the outhouse.

The roses were in bloom.

As were other plants.

The castle wall

Look at the tree like indentation. That's one of the fossils.

This is a typical rock, just chock full of fossils.

That's an obvious leaf fossil there, for small values of obvious.

Hah, we're getting good at this.

That could be a fossil, perhaps an ancient pigeon track, but more likely a leaf.

Fallen leaves, fallen quite long ago

Another bunch of fossils (like us)

Keywords: oregon