Few places on earth contain the breadth of fossil records found in the volcanic ash deposits of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, in north-central Oregon. Now, thanks to the newly expanded Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, visitors have a window ― literally ― into scientists' work and the nearly 40-million-year span of the Age of Mammals represented by the fossils they've found here.
Displays in the lobby introduce some of the animals that once roamed nearby. Through large windows you can watch scientists as little as 2 feet away separating fossils from rock. Outside you can take in views of the famous painted hills or hike one of the wildflower-lined trails in Blue Basin, north of the visitor center. A large interpretive display is set to open in the center by fall; visitors will walk through environments ― from jungle to savanna ― representing time periods from which fossils are still being found in surrounding hills.
Thomas Condon Paleontology Center at John Day Fossil Beds (8:30-4:30 daily; free; on State 19, 2 miles north of U.S. 26 and 8 miles northwest of Dayville; www.nps.gov/joda or 541/987-2333)