The beauty of John Day River valley as seen from Thomas Condon Overlook Trail

The beauty of John Day River valley as seen from Thomas Condon Overlook Trail


Location: Sheep Rock Unit, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon
Roundtrip: 0,25 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 40 feet
GPS Coordinates: N 44 33.101   W 119 38.759
Visitor’s Information Open: all year round

No Pass Required


If you chose John Day Fossil Beds (JDFB) National Monument as your next trip destination, you may plan the exploration of this unique source of geologic history study starting from any of 3 units, it is made-up of (Clarno Unit, Painted Hills Unit, Sheep Rock Unit). But to our opinion the best way to start such a journey is to start it from the Sheep Rock Unit.

Sheep Rock Unit has stretched out mostly along Route 19, following at this section the flow of John Day River. Sheep rock – the main ragged geologic feature of the Unit that towers over the John Day River. Layer upon layer fossil beds lie beneath its black basalt cap. Yet these exposures are just a small slice of the story JDFB National Monument tells its visitors. In total, more then 40 million years of history are preserved here, giving us a wealth of information about age of mammals in the whole North America.

The Sheep Rock Unit makes also an excellent first stop as in this unit you’ll discover the only Visitor Center in the Monument. Actually Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, which has been open since 2005, combines in itself both, a visitor center and a museum. This incredibly interesting place is a great help to the first-timers at JDFB National Monument. Its visitors are offered a short park orientation film. An exceptional paleontology museum there, showcasing over 500 fossils found at the territory of the monument. A viewing window into an active lab, which can also be found there, allows the visitors to see the scientist at work. Rangers at the Center help the visitors, answering their park- or travel-related questions.

At the farthest end of the parking lot behind the Paleontology Center you will find a short and easy trail (0,25 mile long roundtrip). The Thomas Condon Overlook Trail, running over a low grassy hill, will lead you to an overlook opening the views of the river valley. Enjoy your first experience of Sheep Rock unit, with its bluish-grey colors. You will also see some rock formations with yellow-red color range, as at Painted Hills Unit, but they will be few here.


Photo: Roman Khomlyak

Photo Editing: Juliana Voitsikhovska

Information: Svetlana Baranova

Pictures taken: 9/9/15

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