The trip is being led by Mark Gotchall with assistance from Bruce Bittle

The Painted Hills are about 3.5 – 4.0 hours from Eugene north on Bridge Creek Road (AKA Burnt Ranch Road) off Highway 26 about 4 miles west of Mitchell, Oregon.

This can be a 1 to 3 day trip. Lodging is limited – – and there is camping in the area.


Schedule :

Go at your own pace, show up when you want, ask questions, I’ll try to help:

•  Friday afternoon – 5:30- meet at the Picnic area at the Painted Hills
(free entry to park), quick overview and travel up the road to shoot some
images. Sunset at 8:12pm
•  Saturday 2:45am Meet at the Oregon Hotel Parking lot, carpool to the
Painted Hills – shoot the milky way over the Painted Hills. The Milky Way
doesn’t show until about 12:30am and by 3:00 it should be mostly toward
the south. Watch for the meteors (see notes below) – cloud cover
•  Saturday Sunrise (5:42am) at the Painted Hills; meet at overlook
parking lot 6:30am, the sun takes awhile to climb over the hills to the
east – shoot the sunrise east and west over Painted Hills. I will be there
early with the camp stove set up, bring your Starbucks instant coffee, or
ground coffee for the French press (and mug). Red Hill Trail shooting
opportunities too.
•  Saturday 1:00pm – meet at the Oregon Hotel – carpool to the Thomas
Condon Paleontology Center 45 minutes east of Mitchell
•  Saturday 5:30pm meet at the picnic area at the Painted Hills- try
another round of late afternoon and evening shooting at the Painted Hills.
•  Saturday 10:00 pm – hike into the Owen Ranch (20 minutes each way)
for some night photography at an abandoned ranch. – I have never hiked in
here, or shot here… participate at your own risk. Cloud cover
• Sunday – sunrise shooting before departure.


Meteor Shower:  view from around 4am looking ESE
May 5 and/or 6, 2016 before dawn, the Eta Aquarids
. This meteor shower has a relatively broad maximum – meaning you can watch it the day before and after the predicted peak of May 6. This shower favors the Southern Hemisphere, and is often the Southern hemisphere’s best meteor shower of the year. By good fortune, in 2016, the moon turns new at or near the shower’s peak. The radiant is near the star Eta in the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer (click here for chart). The radiant comes over the eastern horizon at about 4 a.m. local time; that is the time at all locations across the globe. For that reason, the hour or two before dawn tends to offer the most Eta Aquarid meteors, no matter where you are on Earth. At northerly latitudes – like those in the northern U.S. and Canada, or northern Europe, for example – the meteor numbers are typically lower for this shower. In the southern half of the U.S., 10 to 20 meteors per hour might be visible in a dark sky. The most meteors will probably rain down on May 6, in the dark hours before dawn. But watch on May 7 as well! The broad peak to this shower means that some meteors may fly in the dark hour before dawn for a few days before and after the predicted optimal date.


Sidewalk Cafe; F 7-8, Sat 7-8, Sun 7-7
Little Pine Cafe/Stage Stop; Fri 7:30-7:30, Sat 11-8, Sun – Closed (they do have pizza to go)



Mitchell offers limited services, there is one hotel, one restaurant, and one grocery store/deli. There are camping options too, however if you want to camp along the John Day River I would suggest high clearance vehicle to get there. If you are planning on going and want a room in the hotel, I would make reservations before too long. Another thing to keep in mind, you might want to have a big lunch and take dinner fix-ins, because the restaurant may be closed by the time you are done shooting. I normally pack a cook stove and french press – BYO food or coffee. Prineville is the closest “large town” about 1 hour away. I would also fuel up in Prineville on the way to the Painted Hills.

Ochoco Divide Campground is closed until May 15th
FS-12 road closed by snow, no current access to Big Summit Prairie from Mitchell area


More information:
• Mitchell, Oregon – lots of local info
• National Park Service

The Mitchell, Oregon website (link above) has links to the Hotel.
In the mean time take a look at Flickr – search images for “Painted Hills” and see what you would like to capture.




One comment on “May 7 – Painted Hills Field Trip – Update (4/29)
  1. DaveHorton says:

    Great write up Mark.

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