one of our traditions

“I smell a dinosaur!”

Some of you may remember that I wrote about the Joggins Fossil Cliffs last year during our almost-annual trip to Nova Scotia. Check out that post if you want to get more of a feel for the place. I posted a panorama photo and some other shots that give a better idea of the size and setting of the cliffs. Visiting the cliffs has become something of a tradition for us. We first visited them in 1999 and have since returned several times. We don’t usually spend that much time searching for fossils — we found a few on previous visits — but come mainly to enjoy the feeling of place. The setting is a long expanse of beach with high cliffs curving around. The cliffs are layers of stone and sediment with occasional coal seams running through. Pitch black particles wash out into black streams of pebbles stretching down to the ocean. Large and small stones erode from the cliffs, as sections crumble and fall into the ocean at high tide — and this is the Bay of Fundy, so the tides are very high in this region. Fossils are unearthed daily, so visitors to the beach can search along the base of the cliffs if they are so inclined. Picking rock out of the cliff faces is prohibited as this is a geologically protected site.

The new fossil center being built above the fossil cliffs

During this visit, we caught a glimpse of the new Joggins Fossil Institute being built atop the cliffs overlooking the bay. It looks interesting — quite large — and seems to blend in well with its setting. A local resident told us that the finished structure will have a grassy roof covering. The Joggins Fossil Cliffs have been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I don’t know if it has received that designation as yet, but it does seem likely.

a close view of a typical section of the fossil cliffs

This is a closer view of a typical section of the fossil cliffs. When you’re this close, you can get some appreciation for the complex layers of sediment of which they’re composed.

warning sign on staircase descending to the beach below fossil cliffs

I haven’t yet posted photos of profiles of the cliffs — I’ll probably follow up this post with another with a few more photos — but, as mentioned above, the cliffs are constantly eroding, with large sections occasionally washing down to the beach. Visitors do need to be wary about walking below overhanging sections of rock, and also of becoming stranded by the high tides that can rise rapidly.

large section of rock with what looks like fossils wedged under another larger rock

On this trip, while I wasn’t intentionally looking for fossils — in fact, I was looking for seashells and beach-worn bits of glass — I came upon this large section of rock wedged beneath and even larger rock. By the look of it, I’d say it was almost definitely a fossil rock. It’s probably the largest I’ve seen down on the beach. There are some beautiful fossils up in the original fossil center which is still operating in the village a couple of blocks from the beach (it’s supposed to be closing once the new center opens later this year).

This trip, we spent most of our time wandering around the beach. I’ll post a few photos of some of our findings in the next day or two.

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No Responses to “one of our traditions”

  1. Peter Says:

    Interesting place. We were near by yesterday but ran out of time. I know you were not looking for fossils this time around, but when you are you may want to check out Arisaig beach, about 60 to 90 minutes east of Truro. We had a lot of fun and it is littered with fossils along the cliffs, similar to Joggins.

  2. robin andrea Says:

    Great photos of the sedimentary rock and the layers of fossils. I absolutely love to be in places where fossils are visible like that. It’s one of the things I miss about the California coast. There’s a place with incredible fossils that we could walk to and was only reachable at a minus tide. I did a post about it when we first started blogging. Here’s a link:

  3. robin andrea Says:

    I meant to add how much I love those warning signs. Poor crazy humans with all those falling rocks, rising tides, and slippery slopes.

  4. threecollie Says:

    Sounds like a very wonderful place to visit. the rocks are very beautiful.

  5. Cathy Wilson Says:

    What an unusual place. If that were here in the states – it’d be off-limits. Liability issues. We have a quarry just a few miles west of us with gazillions of trilobites. You can’t get near it.

    I particularly like that fossil-sniffing pup :0)

  6. Terri McCulloch Says:

    hi – I just came across your blog with the Joggins Fossil Cliffs posts. Great photos! I live here on the Bay of Fundy just ‘down the road’ from Joggins. To answer your question about the UNESCO designation: no, the designation is not expected until summer 2008 but it was decided to proceed with the construction of the new interpretive centre anyway. A year-round facility is long overdue; there are folks in our region all the time looking to discover the fossil story. I
    ve been tracking the UNESCO progress (along with many other Fundy-related topics!) on my Bay of Fundy blog:

  7. pablo Says:

    Nice rocks and all that, but I love those photos of Sabrina. What a beautiful dog!!!

  8. bev Says:

    Peter – Thanks for the note about Arisaig beach! I’ll definitely add that to our itinerary for next trip east. Sounds like a great spot.

    robin – I’m so glad you posted the link to your piece on the fossils on the beach. I was thinking of you while studying the big fossil rock at Joggins last week. Your fossil rock photos are spectacular. And yes, warning signs. Don’t you just love them.

    threecollie – It’s a wonderful place — with or without the fossils!

    Cathy – Interesting thing about that, but Wayne has also mentioned that some of the places we’ve visited (such as Wards Falls in Nova Scotia – written about last summer) would probably not allow visitor access due to liability issues. In Canada, there seems to be less of an issue with this, although we do see it a bit. However, most of the time, there are just warning signs and people are left to depend on their own judgement as far as safety is concerned. I have to say that I like it that way.

    Terri – Thanks for dropping by my blog and also leaving some updated info on the status of the UNESCO designation. It’s good to see that the centre is being built as it really is a unique site. Also thanks for posting a link to your blog. I will definitely check it out.

    pablo – I have to agree — she is a very beautiful dog (and I’m not just saying that because I’m her friend!).

  9. John Says:

    Sorry, I’ve been late to leave a comment, Bev. Sabrina’s grand, indeed. The first sights of Fall in your part of the world are tremendous, I think. Here…not so much, at least not right now. I long for the Fall.

  10. bev Says:

    John – Autumn is definitely making its presence known around here. I always have mixed feelings about its arrival. It’s nice to have a break from the heat and humidity, but I’m sad to see the end of the insects for another year. Some years, I don’t mind so much as the autumn leaves are so spectacular, but I think this will be a replay of last year — the leaves will dry, turn yellow and fall from the trees without turning bright orange and red. It seems to have a lot to do with dry weather (and it has been very dry here — today is the first day of rain in awhile).

  11. Ron Says:

    I love the pictures of the rock outcrops. I’m particularly curious about the red rock in the picture with the fossil slab. Any idea what it is? Looks like some kind of sedimentary claystone.I carve stone and something like that would make a beautiful piece of artwork. Great site!

  12. bev Says:

    Ron – There’s a lot of sandstone around there — and elsewhere on the Bay of Fundy, so I believe that’s what that piece of red rock would be. It’s quite soft and erodes easily. If you take a look at my photos from Thomas Cove, you’ll see what I mean.

  13. D. Kissoon Says:

    We would like to take our kids to see the amazing sites at Joggins, is it kid friendly and would they find small keepsake fossils?

  14. bev Says:

    Hello D. Kissoon – As of last summer, it was very kid friendly at Joggins — you could park and walk down to the beach to look for fossils. However, if you don’t know what exactly to look for, you might not find anything. Now, one thing I should mention is that there is a new Joggins fossil museum (a large facility), and I’ve heard that things will be done quite differently after its opening (it may be open already — I’m not sure). There may be some admission charge to go down on the beach — I don’t know, but you can probably contact the museum and check on this. Most likely, there would be educational walks. By the way, at the old Joggins museum, visitors were given a small fossil (usually a little fragment) as part of the admission price. Maybe that will be the case at the new museum.

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