Journey Through Time, Episode 1
Many first-time visitors to eastern Oregon are surprised by the landscape, particularly if they’re coming from western Oregon. From the Pacific coast to the Cascades, the areas around Portland, Eugene and Medford are lush and green, typical gorgeous Pacific Northwest. But the Cascades suck up a lot of the moisture and so eastern Oregon is a lot drier. And millions of years of volcanic activity, sedimentary deposits and erosion have sculpted the landscape into an artistic showpiece. This drive starts nine miles south of I-84 and the Columbia River, 113 miles east of Portland. It follows two highways. Oregon 206 features rolling hills, windmill farms and wheat fields that give way to stunning river canyons. The route eventually joins up with Oregon 19 and the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway, so named because history is laid out like a geological storybook here. The area contains a fossil record spanning more than 40 million years, one of the most complete fossil chronicles in existence. There are so many pretty roads in these parts that future Wide Open Rides will follow routes to fossil beds and painted hills.
Part of this route’s charm is its isolation and lack of civilization. Wasco, Condon and Dayville provide minimal services. 30 miles past Dayville is the town of John Day. With a population of about 1700, it offers lodging, camping, restaurants, groceries and gas.
Route & Map
Wasco to Dayville, OR Highway 206 to OR Highway 19
3 hours with stops
Best Time to Visit
Spring is greener while summer and fall feature more yellow, tan and brown. The drive is basically really pretty anytime of year although winter means icy roads and snow at times.
Travel Oregon, the state’s official tourism site, has a great write-up on the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway. The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument site has read-worthy info on the area’s ancient history and geology.