Painted Hills is one of the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, located in Wheeler County, Oregon. It totals 3,132 acres and is located 9 miles northwest of Mitchell, Oregon.
The Hills is named after the colorful layers of its hills corresponding to various geological eras, formed when the area was an ancient river floodplain. The black soil is lignite that was vegetative matter that grew along the floodplain. The grey coloring is mudstone, siltstone, and shale. The red coloring is laterite soil that formed by floodplain deposits when the area was warm and humid.
When you travel to the Painted Hills, you can see millions of years of history revealed in the layers of mountains of earth, one color at a time.