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Wheeler High School Fossil Beds

Digging for fossils at Wheeler High School

Common Fossils at Wheeler High School Fossil Beds - PDF File


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.


Entrance Fees:


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) 763-0907.

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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