August 24, 2014
After road-building made the [John Day] valley more accessible, settlers established farms, ranches, and a few small towns along the river and its tributaries. Paleontologists have been unearthing and studying the fossils in the region since 1864, when Thomas Condon, a missionary and amateur geologist, recognized their importance and made them known globally. Parts of the basin became a National Monument in 1975.
I hiked up the Island in Time Trail, which runs 1.3 miles from the parking lot to a cul-de-sac in the center of the Blue Basin. The canyon walls are a pale blue-green and appear to be quite soft. Getting off the trail is a no-no. There are exhibits and fossil replicas along the way, as well as thirteen metal bridges. In about the only shady spot on the hike, there’s a sign low to the ground pointing to the Blue Basin Overlook Trail, the other end being quite at the trailhead. I went about a half mile up this trail to get a higher angle view of the place.
This blue layer of earth is exposed throughout the valley. It’s at the base of Sheep Rock, a few miles south of Blue Basin, and you can see it to the north on the other side of the river. But it’s most striking here.