The Painted Desert is a U.S. desert of badlands in the Four Corners area from the Grand Canyon National Park into the Petrified Forest National Park. Much of the area within the Petrified Forest National Park is protected as the Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area. Much of the Painted Desert region is within the Navajo Nation. The Painted Desert encompasses over 93,500 acres and stretches over 160 miles.
The Painted Desert derives it is name for the multitude of colors ranging from lavenders to shades of gray with vibrant colors of red, orange and pink. It is a long expanse of badland hills and buttes and although barren and austere, it is a beautiful landscape of a rainbow of colors.
It took millions upon millions of years for nature to create this natural canvas of unimaginable design. The Painted Desert draws upon the earth’s indecisive nature. From shifts in the earth’s crust brought about by temperamental volcanoes and earthquakes to complete inundation by fresh and sea waters alike, a veritable host of elements have breathed life into this area. Colorful sediments of bentonite clay and sandstone, stacked in elegant layers, feed off the setting Arizona sun in an ever-changing display of colorful splendor.
Painted Hills is one of the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, located in Wheeler County, Oregon. It totals 3,132 acres and is located 9 miles northwest of Mitchell, Oregon and 75 miles east of Bend. Painted Hills is named after the colorful layers of its hills corresponding to various geological eras, formed when the area was an ancient river floodplain.
The black soil is lignite that was vegetative matter that grew along the floodplain. The grey coloring is mudstone, siltstone, and shale. The red coloring is laterite soil that formed by floodplain deposits when the area was warm and humid.
An abundance of fossil remains of early horses, camels, and rhinoceroses in the Painted Hills unit makes the area particularly important to vertebrate paleontologists.