Snow covering the Painted Hills of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon
© Floris van Breugel/Minden Picture
The painted hills of prehistory. There’s treasure in them thar hills
This wintry view comes from Oregon’s Painted Hills, part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and home to one of the most complete fossil records on the planet. Paleontologists have uncovered fossils here that date as far back as 44 million years ago, when this region had a hot, wet, subtropical climate, home to crocodiles and rhino-like plant eaters. And what’s above ground here is equally impressive. This is only a glimpse of the portion of the monument called the Painted Hills, named for its vivid colors that are a result of layers of sediment from various geologic periods.