Wheeler High School Fossil Beds
Digging for fossils at Wheeler High School
We invite you to visit Oregon Paleo Lands Center & Gallery before or after your exploration of the nearby WHS fossil beds to learn about the geology of the area, fossils, and tips on fossil hunting.
The Fossil Beds at Wheeler High School, are a place where you can collect fossils in a safe location with interpretive information to help you understand and identify your finds. These thinly-bedded rocks behind Wheeler High School in Fossil, Oregon represent the bed of a shallow lake that existed here about 33 million years ago, during a time period known as the Oligocene. The climate 33 million years ago was temperate, but somewhat milder and wetter than today.
Fossils that you’ll find at the school site are mostly leaves and branches of the deciduous trees that grew along adjacent stream banks and in nearby wetlands. The site is within easy walking distance of our Center and Gallery.
The plant fossils found here include the ancestors of modern sycamore, maples, oaks, rose, and alder. A conifer, known as metasequoia, dropped its needles (left) into the lake every fall and is among the most abundant and best preserved fossils here. This group of plants is known as the “Bridge Creek Flora”. These fossils appear in other locations in Wheeler county—most notably on the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument along Bridge Creek (where collecting is prohibited….)
Animals that likely browsed along the lake’s edges and sipped its placid waters include sheep-like oredonts, large, hog-like entelodonts, and saber-toothed cat-like predators called nimravids. There are no fossils of these animals in the Wheeler High School Fossil Beds—but some aquatic vertebrates, including a salamander and small fish have been found.
You can see depictions of these animals and the ancient ecosystems of Oregon at theThomas Condon Paleontology Center at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument near Dayville, about an hour east of Fossil on OR Hwy 19. We encourage you to visit the Wheeler High School Fossil Beds, and also the Thomas Condon Center and learn more about Oregon’s past ecosystems and climates. Your donations help support science education and the arts in this small rural school system.
Individuals - $5, Family of four - $15, each additional child - $3, groups (school, college/university, scouts, church, etc.) of 20 or less - $25.
For more information about area fossils and geology, call Oregon Paleo Lands Center & Gallery at (541) 763-4480 or stop by the Center and Gallery at 333 Fourth Street, Fossil. We are located across from the Wheeler County Courthouse.
To arrange a group visit to the Wheeler County High School's Fossil beds, contact Wheeler High School in Fossil, Oregon at (541) 763-4303.