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Fossils
Learn more about Oregon's geology


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Amateur Paleontologists find rare Plesiosaur fossil in Oregon - Courtesy of BLM (544 kb PDF)

The Blue Mountains in eastern Oregon contain some of the oldest fossils found in the state

Fossils

Please be aware it is illegal to alter, damage, or destroy an archeological site on any lands, per Oregon Revised Statute 358.920.

Finding fossils in Oregon is not so much a question of where to look for them as where not to look. Fossils are rare in the High Lava Plains and High Cascades, but even there, some of the lakes are famous for their fossils. Many of the sedimentary rocks in eastern Oregon contain fossil leaves or bones. Leaf fossils are especially abundant in the rocks at the far side of the athletic field at Wheeler High School in the town of Fossil. Although it is rare to find a complete animal fossil, a search of riverbeds may turn up chips or even teeth. In western Oregon, the sedimentary rocks that are primarily marine in origin often contain fossil clams and snails. An occasional shark’s tooth or crab can also be found. Marine fossils are also abundant near the town of Vernonia and along the central to south-central Oregon coast.

Collecting of fossils is permitted state-wide within highway right-of-ways, unless excavation is destructive to the road cut or to an archeological site. Any fossil collecting on highway right-of-ways should be coordinated with the Oregon Department of Transportation District Maintenance Manager prior to collecting. District Maintenance Managers can be contacted via:

   Oregon state map showing ODOT maintenance district outlines

 

 

ODOT Maintenance District Map - includes cities, counties, regions, districts, highways, highway numbers, and posted route numbers.

Individual District maps: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TD/TDATA/pages/gis/odotmaps.aspx#ODOT_District_Maps

Fossil collecting is permitted on private land with the owner's approval. Collecting fossils is prohibited or a collecting permit is necessary to collect fossils on state and federal lands and in parks. Collecting is prohibited in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

Additional information on fossil collecting in Oregon can be found at these links:

Places to see fossils:

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Contains a 40-million-year record of plant and animal life in the John Day Basin in central Oregon near the towns of Dayville, Fossil, and Mitchell. The Cant Ranch Visitor Center at Sheep Rock on Hwy. 19 includes museum exhibits of fossils. Open every day 8:30-5:00.

For general information, contact:
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
420 West Main St.
John Day, OR 97845
phone (541) 575-0721


Oregon Paleo Lands Institute
401 W. 4th Street
P.O. Box 104
Fossil, OR 97830
541-763-4480

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

1945 SE Water Ave.
Portland, OR 97214
Open Thurs. & Fri. 9:30-9; Sat. through Wed. 9:30-7
summer hours; 9:30-5 rest of year, phone (503) 797-4000
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Thomas Condon Collection at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon

Douglas County Museum of History and Natural History

Off I-5 at exit 123 at Roseburg
(PO Box 1550, Roseburg, OR 97470).
Open Tues.-Sat. 10-4, Sun. noon-4, closed Mon., phone (541)440-4507

High Desert Museum
59800 S. Hwy. 97, Bend, OR 97702.
Open 9-5 every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
phone (541) 382-4754.

Maps and publications about Oregon’s Geology and its geologic treasures are available from the Nature of the Northwest Information Center, operated by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. Nature of the Northwest is open 9 am to 12:30 pm and 1 to 4 pm, Monday through Friday at:

800 NE Oregon Street, Suite 965
Portland Oregon 97232
phone (971) 673-2331, fax (971) 673-1562
Web address: http://www.naturenw.org
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Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries
800 NE Oregon Street, Suite 965, Portland, OR 97232-2162
(971) 673-1555, FAX (971) 673-1562
email us at DOGAMI

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