The Escuminac Formation

© Miguasha National Park

Introduction

The Micmac people of the Gaspé called this area Megouasag, meaning “red cliffs”. Over time, the name changed to Miguasha, but the place is still just as red. In the evening, when the setting sun bathes the cliffs in glowing light, the rocks turn beautiful shades of crimson.

Located at the western end of the Baie-des-Chaleurs along the northern shore of the Ristigouche River, Miguasha owes its red colouring to the rocks of the Bonaventure rock formation. But the area is most famous for another series of rocks – the Escuminac Formation – which lies under the Bonaventure Formation at beach level. For more than 125 years, the Escuminac Formation has garnered worldwide acclaim among paleontologists. Thousands of beautifully preserved fossils have been extracted from the Escuminac cliffs, mainly of fish that lived 380 million years ago during the Devonian Period.

In recognition of its paleontological significance, UNESCO declared Miguasha a World Heritage Site in 1999. The Parc national de Miguasha, established in 1985, ensures the protection of this fossil-rich site and maintains an impressive collection of specimens in its Natural History Museum, founded in 1978. The park and museum offer visitors an exceptional opportunity to learn about paleontology and discover one of the most important moments in the evolution of life on Earth: the emergence of the first vertebrates to venture on land in a world that had been dominated until then by water-dwelling creatures.

Miguasha is a bit like a photo that shows us what it was like in this corner of the planet very long ago. The photo may be a bit faded, but it still reveals an incredible amount of detail to paleontologists who are willing to study it carefully and with great patience.

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