Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is there a fee to visit the monument?
Answer: No, there are no fees charged at the monument, but donations are always welcomed.
2. Is there cell phone service or a pay phone at the monument?
Answer: No, there is currently no cell phone service in the monument. The towns of Dayville, Spray, Mt. Vernon, John Day, and Fossil have cell service. There is a pay phone in Mitchell across from the general store.
3. Where can we dig for fossils?
Answer: Digging for fossils is not allowed within the monument, but fossil collecting is available to the public in the town of Fossil, behind Wheeler High School. For more information, check the Wheeler County web site here.
4. Were all these fossils found here?
Answer: All of the fossils on display at the monument were found in the large area that makes up the John Day Fossil Beds.
4. What are they doing in the laboratory?
Answer: Since this is a working research center, the paleontologists are actively doing fossil science in the lab. In the lab, they are usually either making replicas, "cleaning up" fossils, or working on display pieces.
5. What is the green rock?
Answer: There are both claystones and tuffs in the Turtle Cove layer that contain a blue-green mineral called celadonite that combines with what would otherwise be a white or tan rock. Many of the rock layers in the monument are also claystones and tuffs, just different colors (red, buff, and beige). This is because different volcanic eruptions, even from the same volcano, are always different. Each of the ash deposits have unique chemical compositions.
6. Do you have any dinosaurs? Why not?
Answer: We do not have any dinosaurs because this part of the country was beneath the Pacific Ocean. The area has been highly volcanically active since then, and the land has been built up out of the ocean during the Age of Mammals.
7. Are you still doing digs? Where?
Answer: Yes. Our team of paleontologists frequently does field work. There are more than 750 fossil sites within the John Day Basin. Within these sites scientists have found more than 2200 species of plants and animals, adding up to more than 35,000 specimens in the collections.
8. Is there any danger of rattlesnakes here?
Answer: We are in rattlesnake country. It is best to be cautious and stay on existing trails. There are many species of snake here, and most snakes you will see are not rattlers. If you see a snake, just back away slowly to let them know you mean no harm.
9. Is there any place to camp around here?
Answer: There are no campsites within the monument, but there are many in surrounding communities, national forests, and on BLM land. Check out our campground page for more information.
10. Who was John Day?
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is named after the river and not the man. Still, how was the river named?
John Day was born in Culpepper County, Virginia, in about 1770. In 1810, at the age of 40, he joined an overland expedition to establish a fur trading post at the mouth of the Columbia River. The party became divided and widely separated. Experiencing hardships, John Day's group dwindled to two people.
He and Ramsey Crooks eventually reached the mouth of the Mah-hah River along the Columbia. There, an unknown group of Native Americans took everything they had, including their clothes. They were rescued and reached Astoria (Oregon) in 1812, where John Day settled nearby.
Due to this incident, people traveling along the Columbia River would point out the mouth of the river where John Day was robbed. By the 1850's, the Mah-hah River was referred to and renamed the John Day River. John Day never found a fossil or even visited this area.
Interested in printing out some of the most common questions that people have while they are visiting? Download our Frequently Asked Questions handout. This pdf file is designed to be printed on legal (8.5x14 inch) paper. Paper copies are also available at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center.
Did You Know?
The Painted Hills at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument are made of heavily eroded volcanic ash layers.