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Painted Hills Scenic Beauty

April 19, 2021

The beautiful colors of the Painted Hills area will change with the position of the sun, last rainfall, temperature, and etc. This sunny blue sky scenic view was taken after rainfall the night before. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from photo by Bonnie Moreland.)
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The beautiful colors of the Painted Hills area will change with the position of the sun, last rainfall, temperature, and etc. This sunny blue sky scenic view was taken after rainfall the night before.

Painted Hills, is one of the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, located in Wheeler County, Oregon. It totals 3,132 acres (12.67 km2) and is located 9 miles (14 km) northwest of Mitchell, Oregon. The Painted Hills are listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon. Painted Hills is named after the colorful layers of its hills corresponding to various geological eras, formed when the area was an ancient river floodplain.

The black soil is lignite that was vegetative matter that grew along the floodplain. The grey coloring is mudstone, siltstone, and shale. The red coloring is laterite soil that formed by floodplain deposits when the area was warm and humid.

An abundance of fossil remains of early horses, camels, and rhinoceroses in the Painted Hills unit makes the area particularly important to vertebrate paleontologists. The Painted Hills Unit also contains a diverse assemblage of leaf fossils aging 39-30 million years old called the Bridge Creek Flora, and a small outcropping of rock containing animal fossils from 30-27 million years ago.

The seasons can also change the look of the Painted Hills radically. Spring often brings yellow wildflowers that grow in open areas and sometime even in the ripples of the hills. Winter can blanket the hills in a white coat, concealing the vibrant hues until the snow melts, revealing interspersed stripes of gold and red.

Image created by USA Patriotism! from photo by Bonnie Moreland.

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