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The Mitchell Plesiosaur

Bringing back the "Tiger of the Cretaceous Seas"

Today's current exhibit is that of the Mitchell Plesiosaur. The Oregon Paleo Lands Center & Gallery and the local Mitchell K-12 School District have worked hard to bring the Plesiosaur "back to life" through a book and exciting exhibit. The exhibit was built by the school with help of Oregon Paleo Lands Center & Gallery artists and scientists. 

In 2003, paleontologists discovered part of a large skull in Cretaceous rocks near Mitchell, Oregon. It belonged to a plesiosaur - a 25 foot long marine reptile that lived during the Age of Dinosaurs, about 80 to 90 million years ago.


The Mitchell Plesiosaur was one of the top predators of the ocean at the time, and among the fastest swimmers. It was the "Tiger of the Cretaceous Seas."

Oregon Paleo Lands Center & Gallery Exhibit: The Mitchell Plesiosaur

About the Plesiosaur Project

Rural schools have an extraordinary opportunity to engage their students with the ancient and living landscapes just outside their doors. Their small class sizes and multi-generational connection with the land provide good incentive to bring the classroom outdoors and connect curriculium with real world application. 

Mitchell High School students working with Oregon Paleo Lands Center in the development of an exhibit.

The Plesiosaur discovered near Mitchell was one of the top predators of the ocean. This fossil, although a reptile not directly related to dinosaurs, is the most charismatic animal of the Age of Dinosaurs found in Oregon or the Northwest. 


Oregon Paleo Lands Center & Gallery saw an opportunity to engage the imagination and energy of the Mitchell K-12 School District in creating an model and interpretive display of this creature for the Oregon Paleo Lands Center & Gallery and a book that would bring the toothy Cretaceous predator to life. 


Oregon Paleo Lands Center & Gallery worked with the school to develop a detailed plan of learning outcomes, objectives, specific lessons and how each lesson met Oregon educational standards and guidelines.

Project Accomplishments

The Vocational agriculture welding class construced a 12 foot long sculpture of the Plesiosaur skeleton, and learned plesiosaur anatomy and artistic welding from master welder/paleoartist Larry Williams.


Biology classes incorporated the Plesiosaur into evolution and marine biology studies. They also developed and wrote interpretive panels with the help of palontologists.


The 3rd, 4th and 5th grades wrote and illustrated an 80 page book on Plesiosaurs and the Cretaceous Sea floor, incorporating earth science, language and communication skills, mathematics, and art. They also created a replica of the Cretaceous Sea that was placed under the Plesiosaur sculpture as the entry-way exhibit at the Oregon Paleo Lands Center & Gallery in Fossil. 


All classes spent time in the field with professional geologists and paleontologists, learning about the improtance of the geology in their "back yard."

Mitchell 3rd-5th grade students measuring the Plesiosaur.

Project Funders

We thank the follow funders for their support: Ann and Bill Swindells Charitable Trust; Gray Family Fund; Oregon Community Foundation; and Wheeler County Title III.


We also thank the dedicated teachers, staff and superintednent of the Mitchell K-12 School District for their creativity, collaboration and commitment to the project and their students. 

Oregon Paleo Lands  
Institute Center

2024 Summer Hours

Thursday - Sunday 


*we will be closed

one hour for lunch

Want to Volunteer?

The Paleo Lands Center invites you, to meet the public and school groups at our educational hub of the John Day Basin. Volunteers can serve as Board Members, Advisors, Center helpers and docents and help share exciting natural history exhibits, brochures, and books with visitors and schools.
Please Contact the Center at

541-763-4480 or for details


Road and Weather Conditions


*Please call or email if you would like to schedule your school group for a visit during the week. Thank you!


Contact Information

333 West Fourth Street

Post Office Box 104

Fossil, OR 97830
Phone: (541) 763-4480




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