John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Environmental Factors At John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Environmental Factors

The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument may seem harsh and unchanging when temperatures on a hot summer day rise above 100 degrees fahrenheit or a cold, below zero winter morning.

Its semi-desert ecosystem is split by the life-giving waters of the John Day River and its tributaries. The area is blessed with the four seasons and all of the changes that occur because of them. While the mountains receive plentiful moisture both as rain in the summer and snow in the winter, the monument has very few days were the 9-16 inches of precipitation puts a damper on outside activities.

Daily and even hourly temperature changes do need to be followed and the proper clothing, amounts of water, and gear brought along so that the visitor can enjoy the many trails and outdoor activities available at the monument and the surrounding area.

Due to its remoteness, impacts on air quality and soundscapes are very rare. An occasional forest fire may put a haze in the air during the summer or a passing ultralight or logging truck can generate a brief moment of noise. Soon however, the visitor can once again welcome back the clean air and quiet solitude that are so common to the monument and region.

Upstream uses of the John Day River by communities and ranching operations do have an impact on the river flow levels and water quality, especially in late summer. A concerted effort in the watershed continues to address and attempt to reduce these impacts.

Unfortunately for the John Day Fossil Beds, the river corridor does act as a natural conduit for the various noxious weeds that have found their way into the river basin.

The monument makes a concerted effort to locate, identify, and treat these weeds with proven Integrated Pest Management procedures. This is important to guarantee that noxious weeds do not gain a foothold and then replace the native plant communities found here.


The Visitor Center at the Sheep Rock Unit is located on Highway 19 between the towns of Dayville and Kimberly, 2 miles from the junction of Highway 26 and Highway 19.

The Painted Hills Unit is located 9 miles northwest of of the town of Mitchell, just off Highway 26. There is no visitor center at this unit.

The Clarno Unit is located 20 miles west of the town of Fossil. along Highway 218. There is no visitor center at this unit.