Dayville is a tiny little town with less than 150 residents. But they do have a sense of humor.
We came to Dayville because of its proximity to two of the three separate units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Dayville and John Day National Monument are named for the John Day River, which flows through both. The river was named for John Day, but you probably figured that out. Day was a member of the Pacific Fur Company’s overland expedition to the mouth of the Columbia River in 1810. While descending the Columbia River in April 1812, he and another trapper were robbed and stripped naked by Native Americans at the mouth of the river that now bears his name, forcing them to hike 80 miles back to friendly Indians under extreme conditions. It is interesting that his name is used so often in this area despite the fact that he did nothing significant to deserve the recognition, nor did he ever visit the area.
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is known for its well-preserved layers of fossil plants and mammals that lived in the region millions years ago. The monument consists of three geographically separate units: Sheep Rock, Painted Hills, and Clarno. We visited two of the units, Sheep Rock and Painted Hills, that are reasonably close to Dayville. The Sheep Rock unit is only ten miles from town and is the location of the monument’s visitor center, the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center.
After arriving in Dayville and setting up at Fish House Inn and RV Park, we drove over to the visitor center to view their video, check out the many displays, and talk to the ranger about hiking in the monument.
The next day we returned to the Sheep Rock unit to hike in an area called the Blue Basin.
There are two trails in the Blue Basin. We began by hiking the Overlook Trail, a 3.25 mile loop trail that goes steeply up 760 feet of elevation for a great view down in the Blue Basin.
Once up on the top of the mesa we could see some beautifully colored formations just to the north.
We crossed the mesa and came to an overlook with a great view down into the Blue Basin.
As the trail went down the other side of the formation we were able to view the basin from many different angles.
As we descended the Overlook Trail we could see the second trail, the Island in Time Trail, below us.
At the bottom of the loop trail we turned and headed into the basin on the Island in Time trail. This trail is 1.3 miles round trip and has 13 open grate bridges that pass a shallow stream.
The next day we drove west on US-26 about 45 miles to visit the Painted Hills unit of the monument. As we drove up the entrance road, but before we passed the park sign, we quickly saw why this area is called Painted Hills.
We parked across the road from the trailhead for the Carroll Rim Trail. This 1.6 mile round trip trail climbs over 400 feet to a panoramic overlook of the Painted Hills.
The views from the top of the hill were fantastic!
We also completed a quarter mile loop trail around a formation called the Painted Cove.
While we don’t think there is enough to do or see in John Day Fossil Beds National Monuments for it to be a destination location, it’s a great place to visit if you are passing through the area.
We have one more blog post about our visit to the Dayville area before we move on. More on that later . . .