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Landscape: Painted Hills | John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Panoramic View of Painted Hills at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.


Located on the eastern flank of the Cascade Mountains in Central Oregon, the Painted Hills bold red, yellow, black and tan colors trace the the story of this region's volcanic past and the formation of the Cascade Mountain Range.

In the geologic past, the eruptions and lava flows that built up the Cascade Mountain range inundated ancient forests; each eruption, created a distinct layer capturing the land in the period of the eruption.

The bold reds mark wetter ancient climates with vast deciduous forest. Yellow indicated periods of drier and cooler climates with less dense vegetation.The black bands and dots represent layers of plant life that fixed manganese in the soil. The gray and tan soils mark ancient mudstone and shale deposits consistent with a wetter climate. Flecks and tints of green and indigo represent areas where colored soils have mixed together in ceaseless tides of erosion wearing ancient mountains down to the hills present today.

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