A visit to Tumbler Ridge will leave lasting impressions. The scenery is incredible, the outdoor adventures will get your heart pumping, and there are multiple opportunities to explore the world of dinosaurs.
Click the image below to view a Tumbler Ridge web cam showing the current conditions.
200 km west of Grande Prairie lays the coal mining town of Tumbler Ridge, BC. One footloose and fancy-free summer day in 2000, two local boys, Mark Turner (11) and Daniel Helm (8), were tubing in the rapids of Flatbed Creek near Tumbler Ridge. After falling off their tube, they walked back upstream on bedrock. Noting some unusual depressions on the banks, they became convinced they were dinosaur tracks. Although he was sceptical, Daniel’s father, Dr. Charles Helm, ultimately contacted palaeontologist Dr. Rich McCrea. He confirmed the prints were a trackway of a heavily-armoured ankylosaur. Unlike the body fossils, such as bones or shells, these trace fossils preserve a record of an animal’s activity.
Little did any of the players know that this discovery would change their lives and their community forever. Along with other fossil discoveries made by enthusiastic locals, the dinosaur trackway served as the catalyst for Dr. Charles Helm to form the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation (TRMF).
In 2002, the TRMF led a prospecting tour in a deep canyon along Quality Creek. A local prospector showed Dr. McCrea a bone he’d spotted in a large sandstone slab beside the creek which had slid down from the nearby cliff face. Ribs, vertebrae and a fibula embedded in the block represented a colossal find as the first massive concentration of dinosaur material in BC. The site turned out to be a treasure trove of dinosaur tracks and the bones of theropods, hadrosaurs, ankylosaurs, crocodiles, turtles, fish, a freshwater ray and a smattering of bivalve shells. The bones from this Kaskapau Formation (Turonian; about 90 million years old) proved much older than any others found in western Canada to date.
With such an explosion of dinosaur findings, Dr. McCrea spearheaded the creation of the Peace Region Paleontology Research Centre (PRPRC) in 2003. This centre is the only one in BC which excavates, prepares, researches, interprets, exhibits and stores fossils. Since its creation, the PRPRC has carried out many excavations and studies in the Peace Region.
In 2016 the PRPRC published the analysis of T. rex trackways found in the region; it provides the first record of the walking gait of tyrannosaurids. That same year, the PRPRC team began excavation and analysis of a track site from the Gething Formation (Lower Cretaceous; about 120 million years old) near Williston Lake west of Hudson’s Hope, BC.
Recognizing the abundance of paleontological phenomena in the Tumbler Ridge region, UNESCO designated it the first global geo-park in western NA in 2014. The international organization cited the global significance of the Cretaceous dinosaur tracks and bone bed, and the presence of Triassic fish and marine reptiles in making this designation. In the summer of 2017, Drs. Helm, Buckley and McCrea discovered avian trackways in this area in rocks of the Gates Formation (Lower Cretaceous, about 100 million years old).
Coal mines operated by Conuma Coal Resources, Ltd. of Tumbler Ridge have also proved to be rich sources of dinosaur tracks. In the summer of 2017, several large ankylosaur and theropod tracks were discovered in their Wolverine Mine. Their Brule Mine near Chetwynd, BC, yielded a presumed ankylosaur trackway in rock from the Gething Formation (115 million years old).
Adding to the excitement of 2017 was the discovery of the first ever dinosaur skull in BC. It was unearthed beside a creek near Tumbler Ridge by a chiropractor, Dr. Rick Lambert. He wandered down the creekbed after heaving rains, and realized that a rock formation that had caught his eye contained dinosaur teeth. It is likely that his finding is part of the skull of a tyrannosaurid-like Albertosaurus (around 75 million years old).
Not every person can make the rigorous trip to the track sites and bone beds in northern BC, so the PRPRC has developed the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery in Tumbler Ridge to exhibit and interpret fossil finds. Hands-on experiences are available via educational programs, dino-camps and trackway tours. A network of hiking trails near the centre leads to numerous geo-sites, including spectacular waterfalls, mountain summits, sedimentary rock formations, caves and canyons. The PRPRC also sports a gift shop with unique gifts and mementos of this world-class global geo-site.
For more information visit the PRPRC website at: prprc.com phone (250) 242-DINO . The Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation website is at: trmf.ca.
By: Dr. Shannon L. Tracey