Painted Hills, Wheeler County OR


In Wheeler County, just outside of Mitchell Oregon, you will find a beautiful desert. The Painted Hills, named because the area looks like a giant dragged a paint bush across them, tells the geological history of the area through the multiple colored layers formed over various eras. The colors correspond to what the geography was at a certain point.

The bottom layer is the red coloring you see so dominantly in the pictures. It is laterite soil and formed when the area was an ancient river floodplain. Next is a grey layer, which is a mixture of mudstone, siltstone, and shale which formed as the geographic nature of the area began to dry out. The top layer is yellow and tan, much like the rest of our modern desert. Amidst all these colors are black spots. These spots are lignite soil and were produced by an ancient vegetative matter which grew along the floodplain. All of them together make for the most sightly history lesson you’ll probably ever get.

Within the Painted Hills scientists have also unearthed an abundance of fossils. The most common remains discovered are those of early horses, camels, and rhinoceroses.



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