The Miguasha cliff is a witness to ancient history, offering an invaluable glimpse into the evolution of life and the world 380 million years ago. For the dozens of millions of years, the cliff’s exposed sedimentary rock layers, which originally formed at the bottom of an ancient estuary, experienced multiple episodes of erosion that have shaped the landscape.

By the end of the last great ice age 12,000 years ago, the region began to look like it does today. It appears that humans first ventured onto the Gaspé Peninsula 8,000 years ago, evidence of which is preserved at the La Martre archeological site on the northern margin of the peninsula.

For centuries, the Miguasha cliff witnessed the activities of aboriginal people, being strategically located in a region of salmon rivers frequented by the Micmac (Mi’kmaq). After the Europeans arrived in North America, the cliff was witness to the final naval battle between the French and the English in the Ristigouche River estuary, a battle that would seal the fate of New France.

In the aftermath of the English victory, the cliff at Miguasha saw the arrival of families who put do Read More
The Miguasha cliff is a witness to ancient history, offering an invaluable glimpse into the evolution of life and the world 380 million years ago. For the dozens of millions of years, the cliff’s exposed sedimentary rock layers, which originally formed at the bottom of an ancient estuary, experienced multiple episodes of erosion that have shaped the landscape.

By the end of the last great ice age 12,000 years ago, the region began to look like it does today. It appears that humans first ventured onto the Gaspé Peninsula 8,000 years ago, evidence of which is preserved at the La Martre archeological site on the northern margin of the peninsula.

For centuries, the Miguasha cliff witnessed the activities of aboriginal people, being strategically located in a region of salmon rivers frequented by the Micmac (Mi’kmaq). After the Europeans arrived in North America, the cliff was witness to the final naval battle between the French and the English in the Ristigouche River estuary, a battle that would seal the fate of New France.

In the aftermath of the English victory, the cliff at Miguasha saw the arrival of families who put down roots in the surrounding area. And one day, in the summer of 1842, the cliff was visited by physician and chemist Dr. Abraham Gesner, its first official discoverer. It was 37 years later that Dr. Ells, as leader of a team from the Geological Survey of Canada, followed in Gesner’s footsteps and rediscover the cliff’s fossil wealth.

From that moment forward, human history and scientific history became entwined. Year after year, with each blow of a hammer, the cliff patiently revealed its secrets to explorers and local collectors. As scientists unraveled its mysteries, they were able to add a new page to the history of life on Earth. Miguasha’s story, written in stone some 380 million years ago, continues to unfold, bit by bit, as it has done for more than 125 years. And it is a story that is far from finished!

© Miguasha National Park 2007

Euclide Plourde

Euclide Plourde, seen here in 1937, was a local inhabitant of Miguasha who played a major role in historical fossil digs along the cliff at the Parc national de Miguasha.

René Bureau
1937
© Miguasha National Park


Where the Ristigouche River estuary joins the Baie des Chaleurs, its banks are made of sedimentary and volcanic rocks that represent almost the entire Devonian Period. These geologic layers form a large, gently folded U-shaped structure called the Ristigouche Syncline. The southern flank of this structure is found in New Brunswick and the northern flank in Quebec.

The two youngest Devonian rock formations in the region are the Fleurant and Escuminac formations, both located in the Miguasha area on the Quebec side. These two formations are always found together, and even have a similar mode of deposition. This intimate association is underscored by the union of these stratigraphic units into a single geological group, the Miguasha Group.

The Miguasha Group is particularly well exposed along the coastal cliffs at the southern tip of Miguasha Point, and on Pointe à Fleurant at the eastern extremity of the municipality of Escuminac.

The notion that the Miguasha Group only outcrops in this one geographic area has persisted for more than a century. But recent discoveries of Fleurant and Escuminac outcrops have been made at the eastern tip of the Ristigou Read More
Where the Ristigouche River estuary joins the Baie des Chaleurs, its banks are made of sedimentary and volcanic rocks that represent almost the entire Devonian Period. These geologic layers form a large, gently folded U-shaped structure called the Ristigouche Syncline. The southern flank of this structure is found in New Brunswick and the northern flank in Quebec.

The two youngest Devonian rock formations in the region are the Fleurant and Escuminac formations, both located in the Miguasha area on the Quebec side. These two formations are always found together, and even have a similar mode of deposition. This intimate association is underscored by the union of these stratigraphic units into a single geological group, the Miguasha Group.

The Miguasha Group is particularly well exposed along the coastal cliffs at the southern tip of Miguasha Point, and on Pointe à Fleurant at the eastern extremity of the municipality of Escuminac.

The notion that the Miguasha Group only outcrops in this one geographic area has persisted for more than a century. But recent discoveries of Fleurant and Escuminac outcrops have been made at the eastern tip of the Ristigouche Syncline, north of Miguasha Point, and 40 km further east in the valley of the Grande Cascapédia River near New Richmond. These discoveries have forced geologists to change their earlier perception.

The Escuminac and Fleurant formations were part of an extensive sedimentary system that formed while the Appalachian Mountains were still in their final stages of uplift. The ancient Miguasha estuary covered a large area along the margin of the young mountain chain, so perhaps it is no exaggeration to compare this estuary to those of the Mississippi, the Amazon, or even the Nile. The ancient estuary occupied a lowlands zone, which later hosted a great alluvial plain that extended into an arm of the sea during the Carboniferous Period.

© Miguasha National Park 2007

The Fleurant Formation and its contact with the Escuminac Formation

This photo shows the contact between the conglomerate of the Fleurant Formation (bottom) and the lowermost sandstone beds of the overlying Escuminac Formation. The rounded pebbles and cobbles were derived from the erosion of Ordovician and Siluro-Devonian sedimentary beds that were exposed north of the Miguasha area at that time. The Fleurant and Escuminac sedimentary formations constitute the geological Miguasha Group.

Miguasha National Park
2002
© Miguasha National Park


The Restigouche Syncline

Simplified geology of the Restigouche River. The Miguasha Group that includes the fossiliferous Escuminac Formation crops up in the eastern section of a long syncline, a basin-shaped fold that affects the sedimentary layers in the region. The axis of this structure runs through the Restigouche River between Quebec and northern New Brunswick.

François Bienvenue
2007
© Miguasha National Park


Distribution of the Miguasha Group

Location of the principle outcrops of the Miguasha Group along Quebec’s boundaries in Baie-des-Chaleurs. The recent discovery of the Fleurant and Escuminac formations in the New Richmond area east of Miguasha involves a very extensive sedimentary system.

François Bienvenue
2007
© Miguasha National Park


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • identify and classify different types of fossils;
  • explain the stages of fossilization and the best conditions to create and preserve fossils;
  • make assumptions about the evolution of living beings;
  • make assumptions as to the explanation of the disappearance of some species.

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