It’s easy to get here, and there’s plenty to see along the way to the Paleo Lands. Experience Oregon’s history, watch stately windmills, or explore some roadside geology. Read our guide below. We’ll look forward to seeing you in the Paleo Lands.
Click to open an illustrated pdf map of how to find us, or click on the Find Us link to a map on the left.
From Portland, the quickest route is to follow I84 east to Biggs Junction (Exit 104), turn right (south) on US 97 to Wasco. You’ll cross the old Oregon Trail about 5 miles uphill from Biggs. From Wasco, take Oregon Hwy 206 40 miles to Condon. You’ll cross the John Day River at Cottonwood, a popular rafting take-out/put-in. Look for pillow lavas in the Columbia River basalts in roadcuts as you descend to the river! Along the way, you’ll
Windmills, SeaWest Windfarm
see two windfarms, (Klondike and SeaWest) and spectacular views of the Cascades, including Mt. Rainier and, on a VERY clear day, the distant peaks of the North Cascades.
This high, basalt-floored plateau is covered in fertile soils of fine-grained silts blown south from the continental glaciers in Washington during the Ice Age. Ash from many Cascade eruptions has also contributed to these soils. Most agriculture here is dryland farming, with a crop planted every-other year. Wheat produced in these fields is soft white wheat, suitable for pastries and breads.
A new winery, WheatRidge in the Nook, produces Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Savigon, Merlot, and Barbera wines.
Visit their website: http://www.wheatridgeinthenook.com.
You may also purchase these wines at Two Boys Select Grocery Store in Condon.
From Condon, head south for 20 miles to Fossil on Hwy 19. You’ll follow a highway through a scenic basaltic canyon—until you reach the community of Mayville—where once again, you’ll have views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. (And cell phone service!) View into the Fossil (Buttte Creek) valley
Then the highway drops over an escarpment that leads to fossil. You’ll be heading back in time, from the 16-million-year-old basalts, past 28-30-million-year -old ash flow tuffs, to ancient, 40-45 million-year old lava flows of Clarno volcanoes.
Stop and see us, and watch our progress on the new Paleo Lands Field Center. And dig for your very own fossils at the Wheeler High School Fossil Beds. Finding fossils at Wheeler High School
From Fossil, you may follow Oregon Highway 19 east to Spray and the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, John Day Fossil Beds, or take Highway 218 south to the Clarno Unit, John Day Fossil Beds, and the Pine Creek Ranch.
FROM BEND: Follow US 97 north to Madras, and then continue on US 97 20 miles past Madras. At Willowdale (now a road junction, not a town!) turn right on Oregon 218, marked for Fossil! You’ll pass outcrops of “holey”, pink rhyolite in about 8 miles up the road. At Antelope, you may stop at the store and cafe for a snack, and talk about the heyday of Rashneeshpuram.
Then, continue on Hwy 218. In about 5 miles, you’ll reach an awe-inspiring view of the rumpled, rugged landscape of the John Day basin, with the river running as a silver thread far below. The road winds through colorful roadcuts before reaching the John Day River.
Two miles past the river, you’ll find Camp Hancock (OMSI) and then the John Day Fossil Beds Clarno Unit where you can stop and hike a trail through a fossil-bearing 45-million-year-old mudflow—now exposed as colorful cliffs. The Pine Creek Ranch occupies much of the landscape here. Register at their kiosk just before the OMSI sign before hiking.
Fossil is 16 miles ahead, where you may search for fossils at Wheeler High School, visit our Field Center, explore the Fossil/Wheeler County Museum, shop, fuel up, and chow down.