Guest Videos: Thomas Condon and the John Day Fossil Beds


I’m writing an ebook series on cats and how they evolved, and it’s tempting sometimes to take a break and head into Eastern Oregon, where sabertoothed cat-like apex predators called nimravids now sleep, along with their prey, in the John Day country.

I haven’t been there yet, but will visit the area as soon as possible (and get some photos, hopefully, that I can use in the third ebook, about sabertooths).

This place is gorgeous!



It’s badlands, but the residents of this late Eocene to Miocene world were preserved mainly by volcanic deposits (ashfall, lahars, and debris flows) rather than the much slower sedimentary processes that buried nimravids and other animals and plants east of the Rockies at what’s now Badlands National Park.

Erosional processes produce the rainbow hues of the hills in both places.

John Day was a late 18th-early 19th century trapper in the Pacific Northwest. Thomas Condon was born in Ireland two years after Day died. He became a frontier minister and, more than anyone, got national recognition for these incredible fossil beds.

Today, the visitor center there is named after him.


Condon became the first Oregon state geologist in 1872 and eventually resigned that position to become the first geology professor at the University of Oregon, in Eugene.

Here he is in 2015, in Eugene, discussing a book he wrote to describe the geology of Oregon. (Here is a more modern view of the region’s geological history, via YouTube.)



Featured image: Thomas Condon, via Wikimedia. (Public domain) John Day Fossil Beds, by John Fowler. (CC BY 2.0)


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