Miguasha National Park
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Miguasha National Park is a Quebec national park on the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec. (It is not part of the Canadian national parks system.) The park is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The park protects an important fossil site on a cliff overlooking La Baie-des-Chaleurs. Miguasha National Park is considered to be the world's greatest palaeontological record of fossils from the Devonian Period, known as the 'Age of Fishes'. Five of the six main fossil fish groups from this period (dating from 370 million years ago) can be found here. A great quantity of some of the best-preserved fossil specimens of lobe-finned fish, ancestors to the tetrapods (believed to be the first four-legged air-breathing terrestrial vertebrates), were found here.
Park officephone: +1 418-794-2475
Reception, self-guided tour and shop are open:
- May and mid- to late October: M-F 08:30-12:00 and 13:00-16:30
- June to mid-October: daily 09:00-17:00
Guided tours are available:
- June to mid-October: daily 09:00-17:00
Accessibility: the following buildings offer access to the mobility impaired:
- Natural History Exhibitions
- Le Dévonien Lunch Counter
- Boutique L'échoppe
HistoryThe fossil site was discovered in 1842, by Abraham Gesner (1797–1864), a geologist and medical doctor, and a pioneer in the petroleum industry. Gesner found a vast array of important fossils, which were handed over to the British Museum and the Royal Scottish Museum; these discoveries caused great excitement throughout the world. There was a rumour in the 1970s that some Americans were seeking to purchase the land containing the fossil deposits. In 1985 the Québec government blocked this privatization by purchasing a large tract of the land and declaring it a provincial park. The peripheral area is owned by about 100 people who limit development, protecting this important site. Over 5,000 fossils from this one site have been identified and categorized. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999.
The Mi'kmaqs, a nomadic Aboriginal people from the Maritimes, frequented Baie-des-Chaleurs to go hunting and fishing. The Mi'kmaq term Miguasha means "red earth", in reference to the colour of the mountain overlooking the park.
LandscapeOn Miguasha Point with the mountains as a backdrop, the park opens onto the estuary of Rivière Ristigouche, very close to where the river becomes Baie des Chaleurs. The park extends over an area of less than 1 km² on a thin 2-km strip where the fossil cliff is.
The cliff is composed of 2 geological formations: the Fleurant formation and the Escuminac formation. The first and oldest formation is a fragile blend of rocks of different sizes consolidated by sand that contains rare coral and shell fossils. The other formation is made of sedimentary rock, or sandstone and claystone, in which all the fossils that have made this site famous are preserved.
Flora and faunaUp to 167 plant species were inventoried from 1997 to 1999. Most plant families are represented in the park.
Some indigenous and fragile plant species live within the park, including 4 rare orchid species: the yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium calceolus), the early coral-root (Corallorhiza trifida), the large coral root (Corallorhiza maculata) and the Habenaria hyperborea.
Parc national de Miguasha is on Chaleur Bay. It is accessed by leaving Route 132 either in the municipality of Nouvelle or in the municipality of Escuminac.
Fees and permits
Adults $8.60, children under 18 free (2018).
Miguasha Natural History MuseumThe park's museum features exhibits about the fossils and paleontology of the park. The museum's collection includes over 9,000 specimens of fossil fish and plants. It includes a guided activity at the cliff, puppet theatre, and a sandbox where children and adults can play amateur paleontologist.
Evolution of Life trailA 3.5-km circuit along the cliff that loops back along the shore. A dozen or so discovery panels on the trail explain the history of life on Earth so that you can learn as you walk.
- Boutique L'Échoppe offers ammonite or amber jewels and a wide range of decorative stone, mineral, and fossil objects. It offers fine crafts by about 30 artists and artisans from the Gaspé Peninsula.
- May and October: M-F 08:30-12:00 and 13:00-16:30
- June to Septemberber: daily 09:00-17:00
Eat and drink
- Le Dévonien Lunch Counter offers Soup, sandwiches, dessert, ice cream and beverages mid-June to early September: daily 09:00-17:00.
There are no accommodations in the park, but you will find 2 campgrounds 2 km and 5 km from the park, and 2 small inns 1 km and 2.5 km from the park.
Dogs are only allowed in certain areas. Check out the applicable rules and authorized sites. Guide dogs and service dogs are allowed everywhere. Other pets are prohibited in national parks.