Fossil Creek Trail
The Fossil Creek Trail contains the largest quantity of high quality marine fossils found in Nunavut. Here you will find the remains of life from 450 million years ago. Informative signage explains the scientific theories about the remarkable geology that contributed to the formation of fossil deposits along the creek. You can learn what scientists believe the environment at Fossil Creek may have looked like hundreds of millions of years ago, plus you are invited to participate in 'The Great Fossil Hunt' — the popular search along the creek for some of the best fossils in Nunavut.
Fossil Creek is located on Southampton Island in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, approximately eight kilometres (five miles) from the community of Coral Harbour, which is called 'Salliq' in Inuktitut. The greatest concentration of fossils is found along a one and a half kilometre (mile long) stretch of the creek southwest of the airport. This is where you will find the informative signage that explains the geological history of Fossil Creek. The landscape is beautiful, with small waterfalls and overhanging cliffs.
The fossils found in this scenic area are believed to have lived during a period when Southampton Island was under a shallow warm sea that was located close to the equator. Scientists believe these petrified life forms were buried in the Ordovician Period from 489 to 441 million years ago. They remained buried until powerful natural forces including continental drift, water erosion and repeated glaciations exposed the site. Scientists have identified more than 40 different fossils in this area and over 140 fossils from rocks of similar age found elsewhere on Southampton Island. At Fossil Creek, these petrified remains include:
- Two kinds of nautiloids — shelled creatures related to snails and clams, with squid like bodies.
- Two types of ancient corals — simple marine animals related to modern corals found in tropical reefs.
- Three different snails — large, medium and small snails that look very much like snails you would find today.
- Algae — simple biological life forms that commonly float in seawater.
- Crinoids — also called sea lilies, that looked like plants but were actually animals that lived attached to the sea floor in dense colonies.
- Trace Fossils — signs of life left behind by creatures that are preserved in rock as indirect evidence of their existence. At Fossil Creek the trace fossils are believed to be burrows left behind by animals that lived in the mud of the sea floor, although there are no fossils of these ancient animals.
- The ‘Tyndall Stone’ — a light brown fossilized limestone imbedded with dark streaks of trace fossils, similar to the limestone used in the House of Parliament in Ottawa.
For more information, check the Nunavut Parks website.
Getting to Coral Harbour
First Air offers service to Coral Harbour from Rankin Inlet, and also from Iqaluit via Cape Dorset. Calm Air services Coral Harbour with two flights Monday to Friday from Rankin Inlet.