OK, I’ll get to John Day in a minute, but first let me tell you a little bit about the area around Crater Lake before moving on.
One of the things I learned at the Crater Lake Visitors Center was that, even though no rivers or streams feed into the lake, snowmelt that doesn’t spill into it, feeds intermittent streams that flow outward towards the Klamath, Rogue, and Umpqua River Basins. I didn’t know it when I booked a room at the Prospect Historic Hotel, but I ended up staying several nights along one of the rivers (Rogue) fed by Crater Lake runoff, right in the Siskiyou National Forest. I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of the quaint little hotel built in 1892, which is in the National Register of Historic Places! I home-based out of my room in the little town with a population of a few hundred people, to explore Crater Lake and the surrounding area, and to just have a little down town. I even took a nap on one of the hotel’s comfy porch couches one afternoon 🙂
OK, now on to John Day…
Content with my time in the Crater Lake area, I set my sights on the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, northeast of Bend, OR. Of course, my first question was “Who was John Day?” He must’ve done something truly heroic to have a national monument, as well as two rivers, two cities, a county, a dam, and a reservoir named after him. From what I can find, he did absolutely nothing, other than to exist, to garner these kinds of honors. He was a frontiersman, who came to Oregon in 1812 as part of an overland expedition, apparently hired for his marksmanship ability to provide food along the journey. His claims to fame appear to be being left behind by the expedition at one point (either due to his, or a companion’s illnesses, reports conflict), then being robbed and left naked by Indians, going “insane” when sent back to St. Louis then returned to Oregon where he spent the remaining eight years of his life hunting and fishing. As far as historians can tell, he discovered nothing- no fossils, no rivers, nor did he contribute to anything that bears his name. Well, isn’t that interesting?! (NPS, Legends of America, City of John Day).
At any rate, the national monument that bears his name is divided into three separate units; I visited two of them: Painted Hills and Sheep Rock.
Although I didn’t get to see many fossils or the paleontology lab, I still enjoyed my visit to this national monument- even if it’s named after a seemingly insignificant character of the past.
Now, it’s time to head west again for another meet-up with friends I haven’t seen in several years!