Cartoon Mountains: The Painted Hills in Oregon

Painted Hills
To reassure you that these images are not the work of an illustrator, we must first compare these softly colored hills with their neighboring mountains, somewhat more ordinary. You'll find these antediluvian volcanic ash deposits, transformed into claystone over the eons, going inland in the state of Oregon, coming from Route 26 from Portland.

Extreme erosion has shaped the slopes gradually, achieving this arched appearance, almost organic. Coupled with its dazzling range of colors, the Painted Hills, makes for an unusual visual spectacle:

Painted mountains
Epic landscape. The Painted Hills wear their geological history in vivid stripes of color.

Zoom in. A dome drawn on top of the knoll. Painted Hills are part of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, established in 1975. Image by Bejan and Vijay Gunda

John Day
Surreal panorama. From afar some hills seem like sand dunes, but up close their more solid rock texture is revealed.
Image by John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

John Day National Monument
Arid surface. Very few plants can flourish in these chemically incompatible soils and strong erosion, unlike in the adjacent hills. Image by Scott Butner

Cartoon Mountains
Striking contrast. The out-of-this-world feeling is accentuated even further when viewed against the surrounding mountains. Image by Shankarr Kalyanaraaman

Colorful Mountains
Deep Red. Obviously, the colors vary according to the position of the sun, so it's worth visiting the park in different lighting conditions. Image by Scott Butner

Painted Hills Oregon
Organic look. Or a melted candle.
Image by Scott Butner

Sleeping giant
The sleeping giant. The fossils found in the strata of John Day include a wide variety of plants and more than a hundred species of mammals. Image by Scott Butner

John Day Fossil Beds
Since the late 19th century, these badlands were known for their valuable fossil deposits. The oldest layers date back to the late Jurassic. Image by Scott Butner

Imaginary planet
The imaginary planet. Since its discovery, places like this have allowed geologists, paleontologists, and scientists in general a better understanding of what the Earth was like thousands of years ago. Image by Kathy & Sam

John Day Oregon
The snow adds another layer of color.
Image by National Park Service

John Day Painted Hills
Animal skin. The dark, cheetah-like spots are manganese deposits, an extra touch added by a fashionable Mother Nature. Image by Andy Simonds

The park is located in a large rural area with very few inhabitants.
Image by Greg S

MontaƱas de Colores
We only know of a handful of colorful mountains in the world as impressive as these ones. The most amazing are certainly the Chinese Rainbow Mountains of Zhangye Danxia, which you can visit by following this link. Also the Painted Hills remind us Arizona's Painted Desert featured in the 2019 Breaking Bad movie, which we reported in our post Where was El Camino filmed? Disney's Stargirl movie is set in Mica, Arizona. Image by Liz Kasameyer

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