Clarno Unit

Two people read a sign along a trail. A large cliff dominates the skyline behind them.
The Clarno Palisades are the eroded remnants of ancient volcanic mudslides.

NPS photo / Tim Gohrke, 2018 Artist in Residence

The Clarno Unit is located 18 miles west of the town of Fossil, Oregon. The Palisades are the most prominent landform and are volcanic lahars, or mudflows, that formed 54-40 million years ago in a lush semi-tropical rainforest environment. Tiny four-toed horses, huge rhino-like brontotheres, crocodilians, and meat-eating creodonts that once roamed ancient jungles are now found in the rocks of the Clarno Unit, as well as an incredibly diverse range of plant life. Leaves, fruits, nuts, seeds, and petrified wood from 173 species of trees, vines, shrubs, and other plants have been found here thus far.

Interested in seeing fossilized plants along the cliff walls? Visit the Clarno Unit Trails page.


Clarno Fossil Layers

Ancient Oregon used to be warmer & received much more rain than today.
Clarno Nut Beds (44 Ma)

Oregon was a hot, wet, semitropical place filled with a wide diversity of plants including palm trees and avocados.

Hancock Mammal Quarry has a large concentration of fossils.
Hancock Mammal Quarry (40 Ma)

Temperatures and rain decrease compared to the Clarno Nut Beds but remained mostly above freezing.


Other Places to Visit in the Monument

Painted Hills Unit consists of fossilized soils from wet forests no longer found in eastern Oregon.
Painted Hills Unit

The colorful stripes and gentle ripples of the Painted Hills makes it one of the most popular destinations in the park.

Eroded claystone reveals the past with blue, tan, pink, and brown rock layers.
Sheep Rock Unit

Home to the Thomas Condon Visitor Center and the Cant Ranch Museum, the Sheep Rock Unit also has many trails and scenic views.

The monument's visitor center and research facility.
Thomas Condon Visitor Center

The Thomas Condon Visitor Center displays fossils from the entirety of the John Day Fossil Beds.

Last updated: January 27, 2023

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32651 Highway 19
Kimberly, OR 97848


541 987-2333

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