Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is there a fee to visit the monument?

No, there are no fees charged at the monument.

2. Is there cell phone service at the monument?

No, there is currently no cell phone service in the monument. Most local towns have cell service, but are not covered by all providers. Depending on your carrier, you may not be able to use your cell phone reliably. Download the NPS App ahead of time and saving the park for offline use so you can navigate the park and things to do when cell service is unavailable.

3. Where can we dig for fossils?

Digging for fossils is not allowed within the monument, but fossil collecting is available behind Wheeler High School in Fossil, OR! For more information, check the Wheeler High School Fossil Beds website.

4. Were all these fossils found here?

All of the fossils on display at the Thomas Condon Paleontology and Visitor Center were found in the John Day Fossil Beds, but the monument does not cover the entirety of the fossil beds. Some of the fossils on display are from areas within the fossil beds but outside of the monument boundaries.

4. What are they doing in the laboratory?

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?

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. Different volcanic eruptions, even from the same volcano, are often comprised of slightly different material, so the rocks vary in shade and color from place to place and throughout their many layers.

6. Do you have any dinosaurs? Well why not?

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. One dinosaur fossil (a single toe bone) has been found near the monument, but is from a rock layer unrelated to the layers that make up the John Day Fossil Beds.

7. Are you still doing digs? Where?

Yes! Our team of paleontologists frequently routinely does field work. There are more than 750 fossil sites within the John Day Basin, many of which are in the monument.

8. Is there any danger of rattlesnakes here?

Yes. 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, but please treat any snake with caution just in case. If you see a snake, back away slowly to let them know you mean no harm.

9. Is there any place to camp around here?

While there are no campsites or camping within the monument, but there are many areas in surrounding communities, and on National Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management lands. Check out our campground page for more information.

10. Where does the name "John Day" come from?

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is named after the river, which was named after the man. John Day never found a fossil here, or even visited this area.

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 near Astoria, OR. Experiencing hardships and conflict amongst themselves, the expedition split up into many smaller groups.

According to legend, John Day and Ramsey Crooks were camped at the mouth of the Mah-hah River where it flows into the Columbia, when an unknown group of Native Americans suprised them, taking everything the two men had, including their clothes. They were rescued by French-Candian trappers and reached Astoria in 1812.

John Day settled nearby and became a well known figure in that area. People traveling to and from the outpost would journey along the Columbia River and point out the mouth of the river where John Day was robbed, recounting the story of his misadventures. How much the story remained true to the original events is unknown; it was not written down at the time.

By the 1850s, the Mah-hah River was referred to as the John Day River. In the 1860s, cavalry soldiers took the first fossil specimens to Thomas Condon of The Dalles, who got the word out about the phenomenal finds along the John Day River.


Last updated: April 18, 2024

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32651 Highway 19
Kimberly, OR 97848


541 987-2333

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