Like most little boys, I was obsessed with dinosaurs. Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Allosaurus, Triceratops… I loved them all. I knew everything about them, I played with the figurines, I imagined myself as a cave man coming across one of these fearsome creatures. I don’t know, of course, if dinosaurs and man lived concurrently, but I like to pretend they did. Plus, before he became a pastor, I had an uncle who was a paleontologist.
Man, what a cool job for your uncle to have when you were a dinosaur obsessed little boy.
So, knowing this about me, you may find it surprising that I only recently visited, for the first time. the John Day Fossil Beds in John Day, Oregon, a brisk five-hour drive from Portland, Oregon.
At the John Day Fossil Beds, Flamboyant rock formations preserve a world class record of plants and animals, past ecosystems, and climate changes covering an estimated span of forty million years. For those who don’t know, that is a really long time.
But, it’s not just looking at rocks and cool formations and the like. The site is also home to the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, a working lab where real life scientists try to piece together the past. Couple that with hikes and scenic drives, and you have a well-rounded trip to the John Day Fossil Beds.
Of course, with it being a five-hour drive from Portland, you would need to make it at least an overnight excursion. The city of John Day has two hotels, the better of the two being the Best Western. After a day of exploring and discussing dinosaurs, you’ll be tired, ready to collapse and relax. With a pool, hot tub, cozy beds and rooms and Wi-Fi and cable TV, you can relax here and wake up to a continental breakfast
Bring your own food or check out some of the cool eateries in town. Downtown you’ll find the Squeeze In restaurant and Deck, which offers delicious food that won’t break the bank. The Snaffle Bit Dinner House, which looks like an old timey saloon from outside, offers tasty eats and a fun atmosphere. Or, Outpost Pizza Pub and Grill, which is a traditional pizzeria with a great drink menu as well.
The Fossil Beds, of course, are the highlight for me, but John Day has enough to do and enough amenities that you could make a nice weekend out of staying there. It may not be on your radar, but perhaps it should be.
John Day, Oregon is about five hours from Portland, Oregon and it’s a wonderful place to get away especially when you have Portland to return home too.