John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Fish At John Day Fossil Beds National Monument


The John Day River remains the longest undammed tributary of the mighty Columbia River. With only two dams below the confluence with the Columbia and hundreds of river miles of spawning habitat scattered among its many tributaries, the John Day River serves as a vital spawning ground for the spring chinook salmon and summer steelhead that have fought their way upstream each year for millennia. The adult chinook pass through the John Day Fossil Beds on their upstream trek usually from April to June, while adult steelhead may head up anywhere between August and the following May depending on the river flows. Some rearing of young steelhead occurs within the monument, but once again this section of the river primarily serves as a conduit for the smolts of both species to head out to the Pacific Ocean. In recent times, the importance of the John Day Basin in the life cycle of Pacific lamprey eels has been noted in research by American Indian Tribes of the region. Bridgelip suckers, northern pikeminnow, redside shiners, and chiselmouth chub along with introduced smallmouth bass are able to better tolerate warmer summer river temperatures and thus are common sights from the river banks in the Sheep Rock Unit. From October through June, cooler water species such as the salmon and steelhead fry, redband trout, and Paiute sculpin can be found as they move down from the upper watershed. The monument has made a concerted effort to remove or replace the irrigation water diversions found in the John Day River or Rock Creek that were once barriers to fish movements. Restoration of the cottonwood galleries and other trees that historically provided shade relief from the hot summer sun is another goal that is being pursued. These trees will also provide leaf matter for the many aquatic insects so important to the aquatic food chain.


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.