The Area

The John Day River Basin, also known as “Paleolands,” is a magnificent area to explore.    Many of Paleolands attractions are hidden and require time for visitors to discover them.  For example, there are three national monuments in the John Day Basin alone. Service Creek is perfectly situated in the middle of all three of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monuments.

Painted Hills Unit In John Day Fossil Beds National Monument Oregon

Painted Hills Unit, John Day Fossil Beds

The Painted Hills Unit is located in Mitchell (approximately 45 minutes away) and offers visitors spectacular views of what appears to nature’s canvas where dramatic reds, oranges and yellows are painted on a tapestry of time and is especially impressive after a rainstorm.

Clarno Palisades Clarno Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Clarno Palisades, John Day Fossil Beds

The Clarno Unit is another spectacular display of rock formations that are remnants of old volcanoes.  Here, scientists actively study the formations that offer insight into the earth’s history and provide a detailed fossil records of creatures and plants that once inhabited the earth.  This location is located in between Fossil and Clarno and is approximately 45 minutes away from Service Creek.

Sheep Rock Unit In John Day Fossil Beds National Monument Oregon

Sheep Rock, John Day Fossil Beds

Last, but certainly not least, is the Sheep Rock Unit located past Kimberly (approximately 45 minutes away from Service Creek).  This location offers various trail options and the opportunity for visitors to experience a paleontologist’s view in a working fossil field center.  Stop in at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and discover what scientists have uncovered in the from the surrounding hillsides of the John Day Basin.  What you see will amaze you.

Blue Basin at Sheep Rock Unit In John Day Fossil Beds National Monument Oregon

Blue Basin, John Day Fossil Beds

In addition to the national monuments, visitors will experience the natural beauty and wonder of the land before time. Vivid rock formations that are blue, green, red and orange can be found all throughout the region.  Depending on the weather and daylight, you may see some and miss others.  These rocks are temperamental and reveal themselves to those who are patient.

Rafting the John Day River

Rafting the John Day River, Oregon

The John Day River offers many a reprieve from the a hot summer sun.  This river breathes life into this region and provides visitors with a way to comfortably relax and enjoy time away from the hustle and bustle of day to day life.  Whether enjoying a picnic lunch with family, experiencing the remote canyons of Paleolands, or fishing for small mouth bass, one will find his or her inner zen.

Find time.  Give yourself more than a day to experience what Paleolands has to offer.  Allow yourself time to relax and see the landscapes that have captivated and inspired travelers from all eras.

Due to the population, Wheeler County has been classified as “frontier.”  That means, we do not have enough people to be considered rural!  There are many places in the nation where you will be hard pressed to find a similar classification, but that is truly what makes this area so unique – the remoteness.  Cell phones do not work in many areas of the John Day Basin, therefore, visitors should take a little more extra time and care when coming out here.  Most feel like they are literally stepping back in time, and experiencing what it must have been like for settlers of the area.  Some things to take into consideration include:

  1. Inform others of your plans to visit the John Day Basin area.  Let them know where you are staying and how to get a hold of you in case there is an emergency.
  2. Be aware that medical services are very limited here. If advanced medical care is needed, Air-Life helicopter services will be required.  Many insurance companies do not cover this type of event.  Please check with your health insurance company for your coverage details.
  3. Many gas stations close early and may not be open on on holidays.  Plan ahead and make sure that you have enough gas to get you where you need to go.