Norton Moosehorn Creek

Rocks

Highway 1 from Bloomfield to Sussex cuts through beautiful exposures of the Albert Formation, a Lower Carboniferous unit that represents lake, swamp and river deposits. Highway outcrops display nice examples of shallow water ripples. Large scale ripples created along river bottoms are more difficult to see. Ripple crests can be metres apart and sometimes fossil tree logs are trapped in the ancient ripple troughs.

Stopping on the highway is not permitted! — future plans include an interpretation centre that will tell the story of the fossil forest.

Fossil Forest

The Albert Formation outcrops near Norton record the remains of ancient rivers that drained highlands built during the creation of the supercontinent Pangea. Rivers meandered along valleys, shallow lakes and wetlands dotted the landscape. Along the margins of the rivers dense forests of lycopod trees grew on the floodplains. The trees, known as Lepidodendropsis, grew to about 10 metres tall and up to 20 centimetres in diameter. A recent study of the rocks near Norton showed that trees grew in dense thickets on thin soil horizons. Floods regularly drowned the forests. Trace fossils of small arthropods have been found and rare remains of fish are known from the Albert Formation.

Moosehorn Creek

This small stream flows into the Kennebecasis River from the south. A covered bridge built in 1915 crosses Moosehorn Creek. The bridge can be accessed along a trail that crosses under Highway 1. The trailhead and parking is located 3.5 kilometres southwest of Norton along a dirt road. The bridge was built seven years after the first fossils were discovered here by geologists from the Geological Survey of Canada. Palaeobotanist W.J. Wilson described collections of lycopods (plant fossils) he found. Wilson had been a member of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick and lived in Saint John before moving to Ottawa to join “The Survey”.

This area of New Brunswick is well-known for its covered bridges. Bridges were covered to protect them from rotting. You might want to tour covered bridges and observe the geology near them.

Access:
Access:
Disabled Friendly:
Hours:
Dawn Till Dusk
Location:
Address:
Highway 1
Norton, New Brunswick
Canada
*Follow signs to the covered bridge trailhead, 3.5 km southwest of village.
GPS:
45.6116307, -65.7195972
Phone:

Reversing Rapids

Rocks

The Reversing Rapids are famous for the tidal phenomenon that forces the St. John River to flow backwards as the Bay of Fundy reaches high tide. A much older geological story here involves the collision of ancient continents. The rocks at the Reversing Rapids exhibit one of the most interesting stories in the Stonehammer Geopark. Here you can see the contact of two ancient geologic terranes, and the fault line that marks the boundary between them. The rocks south of the bridge are Cambrian age rocks of the Caledonia Terrane, 542 to 490 million years old. North of the bridge the light gray rocks are Precambrian age from the Brookville Terrane. The Ashburn Formation marble and the Martinon Formation are 750 million to 1.2 billion years old. At the Reversing Rapids we can see the contact of these two ancient continental fragments.

Terrane Contact

The gorge at the Reversing Rapids displays a terrane contact. A terrane is a fragment of the earth’s crust formed on, or broken off from, one piece of the earth’s crust (or tectonic plate) and attached or welded to the crust on another plate. The fragment of crust preserves its own distinctive geologic history, which is different from the crust it has become welded to. In this case the two terranes, Brookville and Caledonia, both originated in the southern hemisphere, but they are 500 million years different in age. Starting in the Cambrian perhaps 540 million years ago these two fragments of crust were sliced off a continental mass centered near the South Pole. As an ocean basin opened behind them, and one closed in front, they drifted northward to collide with ancient North America. Here they are! A line of weakness separates the two terranes and during later crustal movements a fault (Caledonia Fault) developed along the terrane boundary.

Ice Age

About 20,000 years ago the last glacial period reached its maximum. Glaciers covered all of the Maritimes. As the continental glaciers retreated they left a changed landscape. Before the last glaciation the St. John River flowed to the sea through South Bay, past the Irving Nature Park. Glacial moraines damned that outlet. When the river found its new route 15,000 years ago it flowed over the rock ridges at Reversing Rapids to create this gorge. Thousands of years ago a waterfall existed here, but as sea level rose and the riverbed eroded, the waterfall was drowned. The phenomenon of the Reversing Rapids is only about 3,000 years old. A profile of the river bed shows a series of three waterfalls must have existed here starting near the islands at Fallsview Park and ending near the bridges. Just past the islands the river bottom drops to about 25 metres below low water level. It then drops two more times to more than 40 metres below low water level just past the road bridge.

Access:
Access:
Disabled Friendly:
Hours:
Dawn Till Dusk
Location:
Address:
Highway 100, Fallsview Drive
Saint John, New Brunswick
Canada
GPS:
45.2642664, -66.0880366
Phone:

Tucker Park

Rocks

The rocks at Tucker Park are part of a distinctive formation in the Saint John area. They comprise the Kennebecasis Formation, named for the river where they are seen in outcrop. These are the oldest ‘cover rocks’ in the park, meaning they lie on top of the older geological terranes that amalgamated by the process of plate tectonics. The red Devonian age rocks are about 370 million years old.

Rivers of Rock

Kennebecasis Formation rocks might be described as ‘Rivers of Rock’ since they are layers of sediment that accumulated in riverbeds. The sand, mud and boulders were once sweeping down fast flowing rivers, eroding the mountains that had been created as the older terranes collided. Spectacular examples of these Devonian rocks can be seen around the north end of Saint John in Millidgeville and near UNBSJ. The Memramcook Formation seen further east near Hampton is a related formation and formed in a similar environment.

The Age of Fishes

The Devonian Period of geologic time is often called ‘The Age of Fishes’. During this Period many of the groups of fish we now know flourished. Some of the dominant fish of the Devonian also became extinct. Bony fish and sharks evolved rapidly during this time and are still here today. Acanthodians, placoderms, cephalaspids, thelodonts and others are gone. The Devonian is also the time that animals called tetrapods evolved. A tetrapod is an animal with four legs (or two legs and two arms in our case). A fossil fish often found with Devonian tetrapod fossils is the lobefin fish Holoptychius. Recently a fossil of this fish was found in the Kennebecasis Formation not far from Tucker Park. The scales and jaw are distinctive and indicate that these rocks are most likely Devonian age, a support the idea these are freshwater, or non-marine sediments.

Access:
Access:
Disabled Friendly:
Hours:
Dawn Till Dusk
Location:
Address:
Kennebecasis Drive
Saint John, New Brunswick
Canada
GPS:
45.3113292, -66.0987850
Phone:

Fundy Trail Parkway

Rocks

The rock outcrops along the Fundy Trail Parkway expose both Precambrian to Cambrian rocks near the bridge at Big Salmon River, and Triassic age rocks along the coast to the west. About 400 million years of Earth history can be seen here. The older rocks tell the story of the ancient Iapetus Ocean. In Greek mythology Iapetus was a Titan, and father of Atlas. The modern Atlantic Ocean is named after Atlas.

The Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Ocean is a relatively recent geological feature, only about 200 million years old. The rocks at Big Salmon River are 600 million years old! The Atlantic Ocean was created by sea-floor spreading. Molten rock from the Earth’s interior rises to the surface to create new crust. As it rises and cools the new crust expands along volcanic mountain chains on the seafloor. Old crust returns to the Earth’s interior along deep ocean trenches. Seafloor volcanic mountain chains mark the middle of an expanding ocean basin. The rising molten material creates a ‘bubble’ in the crust that eventually breaks (to create volcanoes).
They eventually join to form a long break in the crust where a new ocean is born. One crack fails to join another. The ‘failed rift’ is called an aulacogen. The Bay of Fundy is a ‘failed rift’ created when the Atlantic Ocean was born. Instead of becoming part of a new ocean, it became a ‘rift valley’ that filled with sediment.

Coastal Erosion

Rocks are eroded by the action of water slowly breaking down the layers into smaller pieces. As the rocks are slowly worn down the sand and mud will be washed out into the Bay of Fundy. They will eventually become sedimentary rocks again as part of the recycling of the Earth’s crust. ‘Flower pots’ are a picturesque result of coastal erosion. They are small fragment so the eroding coastline that have withstood the pounding of the sea. They remind us where the coastline once stood. Someday they will succumb to the sea.

Access:
Access:
Mid May (Victoria Day weekend), through mid October (Canadian Thanksgiving weekend) Off-season access to the park is available through our off-season gate located just outside the main entrance for walking, hiking and biking only.
Disabled Friendly:
Yes
Hours:
May 20-Jun 24 9am-5pm
Jun 25-Aug 19 8am-8pm
Aug 20-Sep 5 9am-7pm
Sep 6-Oct 10 9am-5pm
Location:
Address:
Entrance
3 Fundy Trail Parkway
Salmon River, New Brunswick
E5R 1W4 ~ Canada
Office
229 Main Street
St. Martins
E5R 1B7 ~ Canada
GPS:
45.4085942, -65.4314777

Irving Nature Park

Rocks

The geology of the Irving Nature Park includes both Devonian to Carboniferous bedrock (359 to 346 million years old) exposed on Taylors Island and at Sheldon Point and overlying sand, gravel and clay deposited during the last ice age less than 15,000 years ago. The age of the older volcanic and sedimentary rocks has been hard to determine. 

Although they have many interesting features, this note will focus on the ice age geology of the Irving Nature Park. This is one of the best places in Stonehammer to see this part of the geologic record. The ice age geology is made up of “unconsolidated” sediments. They are not rock yet, they are too young.

 

Climate Change

The end of the ice age was a time of rapid climate change especially during the “Younger Dryas” cold interval. About 11,000 years ago temperatures plummeted about 7˚C in a decade. Sub-arctic insects re-invaded the Maritimes for hundreds of years until temperature warmed again. A peat bog on the hill at Saints Rest Beach records this rapid climate event.

Glaciers

At a time geologists call the “Last Glacial Maximum”, about 20,000 years ago, continental glaciers covered most of North America, including the Maritimes. By 10,000 years ago New Brunswick was probably “ice-free”. As the glaciers retreated they left piles of sand and gravel along their margin. Called “moraines” and “outwash”, these piles of sediment are easily seen on the modern landscape. We often use them as sand and gravel quarries. The quarry on Sand Cove Road above the beach is an example. About 15,000 years ago the front of the glacier stood here at the Irving Nature Park. It is called a tidewater glacier since the glacier ice was up against the ocean. The red clay along the beach cliffs is composed of layers of ocean sediment. Occasionally fossils of snails, clams, sea urchins and starfish can be found in the clay. As the glacier continued to retreat it left a series of moraines where it stood still for a period of time. Looking northwest from the beach you can see Manawagonish Road on the hill. The road is built on the Manawagonish Moraine. This moraine acted as a dam and forced the St. John River to flow through the Reversing Rapids.

Access:
Access:
Disabled Friendly:
Hours:
Location:
West Saint John
Address:
1379 Sand Cove Road
Saint John, New Brunswick
E2L 4M3 ~ Canada
GPS:
45.2257772, -66.1175892
Stonehammer UNESCO Global Geopark