4 Painted Hills

East Face Painted Hills Panorama
East Face Painted Hills Panorama

The Painted Hills are in Eastern Oregon. The hills get their name from the stripes of color in the ground. Visitors see different kinds of earth. The layers of dirt and rock are various shades of yellow, gold, black, and red.

The Painted Hills are part of a larger area called the John Day Fossil Beds. We find a lot of fossils in land that we call a “fossil bed.” A fossil is part of an animal or plant from thousands of years ago. You can see the shape of the animal in the rock. Scientists can study 40,000 fossils from Oregon. They are cousins of elephants, horses, camels, and rhinoceroses from long ago. Some fossils are 50 million years old.

The history of this place is hard to believe. Long ago, Oregon was hot, wet, and almost tropical. The weather was like Costa Rica or Veracruz, Mexico. There were palm trees, bananas, and avocados. It rained more than 80 inches per year. But then Oregon changed. Later, there was a lot of grass. There were many oak and maple trees. Today, the Painted Hills are very dry. This part of Oregon receives only 9 to 16 inches of water each year. Most of this water comes from snow.

Today, the animals in the area are mostly birds. There are more than 50 kinds of birds here. You might also see elk, deer, and cougars. There are beaver, otter, mink and raccoons near the river. Sometimes there are coyotes, bats, and badgers, too — and small animals like rabbits and mice. People sometimes worry that there are snakes, but they are shy and scared of people.


Comprehension Questions

Writing Question

Life changes quickly. Write 3 or 4 sentences. How was your life in the past? How is your life today? What is different?

Sources

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Painted Hills by Timothy Krause is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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