Labor Day Weekend Quick Family Get-Away to the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument

My son loves fossils. He has pleaded with us to venture to Eastern Oregon and take him to the world famous fossil beds.

We must love our kid because we went despite the chaos of unopened moving boxes, new school registrations, daily garden watering, and ventured to Wheeler County, Oregon.

We found a quaint campground along Highway 19, operated by Wheeler County Parks, called Shelton Wayside. No reservations needed. It was a quiet retreat among the Ponderosa pine trees. I do love Ponderosa pine trees.

Shelton Wayside, Wheeler County, Oregon
Travel time from the Portland Oregon area was under 4 hours, traveling along the I-84 through the Columbia River Gorge and turning southward on Hwy 97, then to Hwy 206 and finally Hwy 19. It was a scenic drive, motoring through 'wheat country' with the giant wind turbines, towering over the grassy landscape. We drove through quaint towns such as Condon and Fossil.

We settled into camp life for a night and the next morning, hit the trail to our planned destination of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. As we had visited the Painted Hills in July, we closed in on the Sheep Rock Unit and made our first stop the visitors center. Here are some additional facts about the area.

John Day Fossil Bed National Monument, A view from the Thomas Condon Visitor Center
Sheep Rock, John Day Fossil Bed National Monument
The hubster and I could have stayed for hours, studying the displays and taking in all the sights. The kiddos however, ran out of steam too early for us. We did get to listen to an interactive presentation, watch a video on the geological history of the area and checked out many informative displays inside the visitors center. It was fun to watch my little science geeks in action.

After our adventures in fossils, we cooled off in the John Day River, not far from Service Creek.

Catching crayfish was the game of the day :) Brother bear endured his first crayfish pinch. Ah, childhood memory making and now he knows how to properly pick up a crayfish.

The State of Oregon has such amazingly, diverse landscapes. Our trips this summer to Northeastern Oregon were filled with incredible sights. It never feels like there is enough time to see it all.

The beauty of our visit to Wheeler County was that it was not too far away to sneak in a weekend visit. I suspect we'll be back again soon.

Cheers, Jenni


  1. Reading about the adventures of your young family takes me back 25 years! I love it.

  2. This had to be a welcome break from your unpacking.....looks like a beautiful place.

  3. This was just what your little family needed, a refreshing break in God's great and wonderful creation. Did you son find any fossils in rocks that you could take home?

    Have a great week setting up your home ~ FlowerLady Lorraine

  4. Well done for taking the break from those unopened boxes and the settling in. That looks like a fantastic spot.

  5. What a wonderfully great idea, just leave those boxes, they will still be waiting for you later. Believe me, I know.

    My sister is enamoured of fossils also, I will have to mention this to her.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  6. I love these photos. Your children look so sweet. And your hubby, back to health! Someday I will get back to John Day. It's such a beautiful place.

  7. My Kids and Hubby have been east but I haven't yet :(

    Looks like you guys had lots of fun and a nice break from emptying boxes :)

    Hope the kids have settled in to school :)

    Have a lovely day, cheers, T. :)


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