Mascall Formation Overlook

Tan volcanic formation viewed from above that sits in a valley with shrubs and plateaus
Mascall Formation

NPS Photo

Quick Facts
Sheep Rock Unit
Scenic view of 16 million year old formations. Informational brochures, picnic tables, and pit toilets are located here as well.

Benches/Seating, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Information, Information - Maps Available, Parking - Auto, Parking - Bus/RV, Picnic Table, Scenic View/Photo Spot, Toilet - Vault/Composting, Trailhead, Trash/Litter Receptacles

Mascall Formation Overlook (430 feet round trip) Sweeping views of the John Day Valley and Picture Gorge can be seen from the overlook. Informational brochures, picnic tables, and pit toilets are located here as well.

Mascall Formation

The rocks of the Mascall Formation were laid down in a series of wide, level basins following a ferocious volcanic period 15 million years ago. The Mascall landscape consisted of several broad basins with lakes and meandering streams that formed atop the last of the Picture Gorge Basalt flows.

These deposits were subsequently covered by successive falls of ash from volcanoes to the west and from the much closer Strawberry volcanics to the east. Alternating between the tuffs (consolidated volcanic ash) are layers of ancient soils and stream deposits that provide evidence of a dynamic floodplain. Many of the vertebrate fossils from the Mascall formation are found in close association with a prominent layer, the 15 million-year-old “Mascall Tuff.”

Changing Climates

Although dramatic fluctuations in the global climate and regional volcanic activity continued, there were enough phases of moderate climate with ample rainfall and fertile soil to allow the growth of lush grasses and mixed hardwood forests. This savanna-like landscape was characterized by broad, level floodplains with scattered lakes.

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Last updated: April 4, 2021