Blue Basin Revisited

Last summer I wrote a post about hiking at Blue Basin, an incredible rock formation in nearby John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. When I was there before, I took the loop trail that circles the whole thing, but recently I went back to check out the shorter trail that takes you into the blue-green canyon itself.

If first guess for what causes the amazing color of the rock is copper, well, you’re not alone; that’s what I would have thought, too. However, it actually comes from the weathering of obscure minerals called celadonite and clinoptilolite, both part of the volcanic ash deposits laid down in this area by ancient volcanoes. (Like I said in my last post: my understanding of the geological history of this region boils down to “volcanoes, woot!”)

If, for some strange reason, you ever find yourself driving Highway 26 through eastern Oregon, the Sheep Rock unit of the John Day Fossil Beds is definitely worth a stop. In addition to Blue Basin, there’s a great visitor center with a lot of interesting fossils on display.

Photos in this post by Evan Heisman.

Blue Basin

How about some colorful scenery to start your Monday? On Saturday I hiked the Blue Basin Overlook trail, in the Sheep Rock unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The name comes from the blue-green color of the rock formations, which were originally laid down as volcanic ash. I readily admit to not knowing a lot about geology, but the layers upon layers of white, red, pink, and blue-green rock and soil in this whole region are beautiful.

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Once, this was a tropical jungle inhabited by strange prehistoric mammals, whose fossil skulls are now on display at the visitor’s center down the road. How times have changed.