The Joggins Fossil Cliffs are spectacular! It is amazing to think that the earth's earliest reptiles lived here 300 million years ago. These reptiles were the ancestors of all dinosaurs that would rule the earth 100 million years later! Amazing!
I finally had the chance a couple of summers ago to visit the cliffs. I was very excited as I had searched for fossils in Cape Breton many years before with my young nephews. I still have the souvenir fossils on display in my home.
I had done some reading about fossils found along the Bay of Fundy before my visit so I was prepared. I thought I was! It was still overwhelming.
The Joggins Fossil Cliffs are 15 km of spectacular coastline along Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy. The cliffs were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2008. They are one of the great prides of Nova Scotians.
The cliffs are described as having 'outstanding universal value' as the finest example in the world of the terrestrial (life on land) tropical environment and ecosystem from the 'Coal Age' of the earth's history.
These cliffs have been studied since the 1830s by some of the world's most famous scientists. It is believed that Charles Darwin wrote about the cliffs in his book “On the Origin of Species”.
There are many things about the cliffs that make them extra special but the most fascinating is that because of the tidal action of the Bay of Fundy new fossils are being exposed constantly. 200 species of fossils have already been found. And more are being revealed all the time!
Much of the cliff face is more than 30 metres in height. Boulders and rocks are constantly falling to the rocky shoreline. These boulders and rocks contain fossils.
The tides withdraw twice daily leaving more boulders and rocks to fall and more fossils to be found. Tides can be as high as 13 meters (42 feet) at Joggins.
The oldest known reptiles in the world and the oldest known land snail were discovered here. And large amounts of trace fossils such as footprints are preserved in the cliffs.
Trees from the “Coal Age” stand where they grew. Fossil trees like the one in this picture can be seen clearly in the Joggins Cliffs.
Amphibians and reptiles were found entombed in these upright fossil trees.
The dens of these amphibians are preserved and the earliest of reptiles remain entombed in these once hollow trees.
Who knows what will be revealed in the cliffs in the years to come!
The Joggins Fossil Centre itself is also quite spectacular. Not only does it have wonderful displays about the cliffs, it is an environmentally friendly building. You’ll see a wind turbine, a solar heating system and a green roof. The folks here take this very seriously.
They are in the midst of LEED accreditation at the moment. I suggest that you spend some time in the centre and wander through their displays. Once you are finished head down to the cliffs for a close-up view.
TIP: The staircase which descends to the beach is very steep. The beach itself is very rocky and is exposed to the elements.
Make sure you wear sturdy shoes and bring a jacket or sweater. It can get quite cool and windy along the bay.
We thoroughly enjoyed our guided tour of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. A 1/2 hour tour is included in the general admission fee. The guides are very knowledgeable and are able to answer all of your questions.
Ours was awesome and was very helpful and patient when someone picked up something from the beach and asked if it was indeed a fossil. Imagine our excitement when it actually was!
You can roam the Joggins Fossil Cliffs for as long as you want. Just take note of the tide schedule and don't wander too far.
Make sure you are aware of the tide schedule before venturing close to the waters on the bay. The tides come in quite quickly so it is very important to be aware of the tides schedule.
To check the tides for your area of interest go to this Tides Schedule link. Enter the location in the search box at the top corner of the map.
A little reminder: visitors are not allowed to remove anything from the beach; fossil or not! The guides actually have permits with them which allows them to take fossils from the beach to the centre. Our guide had forgotten his and remarked that he was not allowed to remove anything during the tour.
Location: The cliffs are located at 100 Main Street, Joggins, Nova Scotia. You can see Joggins on my Bay of Fundy map below.
GPS Co-ordinates: 45〫42' 35"N; 64〫26' 09"W
Hours: late April to Oct 31
Admittance Fee: The fee ranges depending on the type of tour you wish to have.
Services: The Joggins Fossil Centre is wheelchair accessible and there are wheelchair accessible stalls in the public washrooms. The centre has various services available to those with disabilities. Feel free to approach one of the staff with your requests.
Due to rugged nature of the beach and cliffs, they are not accessible for those in a wheelchair or those with limited mobility.
The centre has a fully operational gift store with a variety of books and gift ideas. The Roundhouse Café is also located in the centre and offers snacks and full meals.
If you have the time and want to see beautiful scenery I suggest you take highway 209. This road will lead you to the Cape d'Or lighthouse, Advocate Harbour and the Cape Chignecto Provincial Park. This road will also lead to Parrsboro. My Bay of Fundy page describes more places to visit.
There are many places to stay along the Bay of Fundy. Once you decide on your planned activities I suggest that you check their location on my map that I include just above. Then you can check the closest town and its accommodation options on Trip Advisor.
The cafe at Joggins is a great place for a light meal. It was delicious when I was there.
Nova Scotia has a wide variety of places to eat. From fine dining, family restaurants, pubs and pizza spots. There is something for everyone. I suggest you check my Where to Eat page for some tips on how to find a restaurant in your location.
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