I first went to Joggins about 20 years ago. Don’t remember much except that there was a rocky beach, cliffs, I was excited about fossils, didn’t have a clue about what to look for and didn’t make any discoveries, earth-shattering or otherwise. Kind of frustrating. This year, I only went back because I thought I should, since I was exploring the rest of the area.
Wow. So glad I did.
Joggins is home to the most complete fossil record of the Coal Age in the world. This era predates dinosaurs! The Joggins fossil cliffs were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. When you pull up to the area now, you pull into a parking lot next to a beautiful interpretation centre and need to pay a fee to walk on the beach. If you do find fossils in your roaming, you are not permitted to take them away. All of this, I assure you, is a good thing.
The fee? There are 3 levels of admission, the bottom rung being an incredible deal in itself. For $10.50, you can participate in a 30-minute guided tour of the beach during low tide — and do make sure to check the tide tables before you go as you do want to be there while you can walk on the beach. If you can’t manage low tide, then you will get a guided tour of the gallery, which is nifty in itself, but wouldn’t you rather be on the beach where the fossils are found? My earlier disappointment with Joggins? It makes a huge difference to know what you are looking at. Having someone point out fossils “in the wild” will make sure that you don’t leave disappointed and that you will experience the tremendous feeling of seeing and touching part of our natural history that goes back more than 30 million years. You can actually pick up a piece of life that was frozen in time and preserved for 300+ million years!
With people no longer being able to cart away treasures, there is more chance to discover something on the beach. A storm went through recently? This might be a great time to go to see if something new has been uncovered! Here, there is no need for archaeologists to dig. The strong currents of the Bay of Fundy are constantly uncovering new pages in the history book that are the layers of rock and sediment; storms fast-track some erosion to expose new fossils.
The path to the beach has many interpretive signs, loaded with information about the history of the area, both prehistoric and more recent. Joggins was an active coal-mining community until its last mine closed in the 60s. My guide the day I went mentioned about 1 in 3 houses in the area having been abandoned as people had to leave to find work. She also mentioned a new optimism with the UNESCO designation.
The Joggins Fossil Centre is beautifully done. There are many examples of fossils, great descriptions of the natural history and there are some video presentations. There are some wonderful books and staff to answer questions.
$10.50? A bargain. It was a wonderful day, even though the day I went I walked out between showers. I left with a brand-new appreciation of the area and can’t wait to go back again next year to see what has been uncovered in the cliffs. Hopefully, I’ll be able to time the trip with some gorgeous evening magic light so that my photos can look closer to those found on their website, which I point to below.
More information about the Joggins Fossil Cliffs can be found on their site.
Joggins can be found here: