The Joggins Fossil Cliffs offer visitors the unique opportunity to reach back in time and literally touch over 300 million years of history.
Coal Age Fossils in Nova Scotia, Canada
Located near the head of Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy, the cliffs have fascinated visitors for more than 150 years. Well before that, the Mi’kmaq called the place Chegoggin, “place of the fishing weirs” or Chegoggins, “the great encampment.” Eventually, the name was anglicized into became “Joggins” and it was its towering cliffs that geologists started exploring its towering cliffs in the mid-19th century.
Joggins’ wealth of Coal Age fossils was first recognized by Scottish geologist Sir Charles Lyell, who declared the site’s weathered cliffs “the finest exposure in the world”. That fossil exposure is the result of constant erosion by the Bay of Fundy’s record tides, slowly revealing a permanent record of the ancient plants and animals that lived in the area over 300 million years ago. Lyell and subsequent generations of scientists were able to identify species never before seen – and never seen since anywhere else on Earth.
UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site DesignationIt is this concentrated abundance of fossils and the clear window they give to the planet’s history that led to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) naming the Joggins Fossil Cliffs a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Along with the historic shipbuilding town of Lunenburg, Joggins joins the ranks of such well-known natural landmarks as the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands.
Guides regularly take visitors down to the cliffs to examine incredibly well-preserved images of life well before humans walked the Earth. An entire ecosystem – plants and trees, insects and invertebrates, and amphibians and reptiles – can be spotted throughout the grey and reddish-brown rock and along the shore. With the Bay of Fundy’s tides constantly eroding the cliffs and exposing more fossils, new discoveries lie just beneath the surface, just waiting to be found.
Joggins Fossil Centre
The centerpiece of the site is the Joggins Fossil Centre, an interpretive centre and the launch point for guided tours of the cliffs. The building reflects the natural beauty of the Joggins Cliffs. The inclined walls mimic the formations of the cliffs and the overall shape of the building is reminiscent of the coal mine which once stood on the site. The centre also was built to minimize its impact on the natural wonders around it even winning awards for innovative architecture and sustainability. Here, visitors can learn more about the history of the cliffs and the fossils through interactive exhibits, enjoy lunch at the café, and find a local memento at the gift shop to take home. The centre also has space for group functions, complimentary wireless internet, preferred parking spaces for environmentally friendly cars and a children’s playground.
Joggins Fossil Centre Hours of Operation
The centre is open April 21st to October 31st in 2013 with 30 minute, 2 hour and 4 hour public and private guided tours running throughout the day based on the tides. More information on the cliffs and the centre can be found on the Joggins Fossil Institute’s website.