Fossil Creek has one of the best displays of fossils in Nunavut. Here, you can see the remains of life that is 450 million years old, and learn about the scientific theory and the remarkable geology that may have contributed to the formation of the fossil deposits on display in the creek. You will learn what scientists think the environment at Fossil Creek may have looked like in the past, and will be challenged to take part in “The Great Fossil Hunt” where you will search Fossil Creek for fossils that are among the most commonly identified in Nunavut.
Searching for fossils would require a Nunavut Paleontology Permit; the Department of Environment promotes visitors to look at fossils/archaeological sites, but to leave them alone.
History of the Area
Fossil Creek is located on Southampton Island, in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut, approximately 8 km from the community of Salliq (Coral Harbour). The greatest concentration of visible fossils is found along a 1.5 km stretch of the creek southwest of the airport, and this is where you will find interpretive signage explaining the geological history of Fossil Creek. In addition to an abundance of fossils, the creek is very scenic in this area, with small waterfalls and overhanging cliffs.
The fossils that you will see in the creek are believed to have lived during a period when Southampton Island was under a shallow warm sea located close to the equator. Scientists believe these fossils were buried in the Ordovician Period (approximately 489 to 441 million years ago), and they remained buried until natural forces, such as glacial ice and water erosion, exposed the site.
Scientists have identified more than 40 different fossils from Fossil Creek, and over 140 fossils from rocks of similar age on Southampton Island. At Fossil Creek, this includes:
- Two kinds of nautiloids – shelled creatures related to snails and clams, but with squid like bodies.
- Two types of corals – simple marine animals related to corals found in modern tropical reefs.
- Three different snails – large, medium, and small snails that look very much like snails you would find today
- Algae – simple structures that commonly float in water
- Crinoids – or sea lily, may have looked like a plant but it was actually an animal that lived attached to the sea floor in dense groups
- Trace Fossils – fine details preserved in rocks left by animals that are indirect evidence of life. At Fossil Creek, the trace fossils are believed to be burrows left behind by animals that lived in the mud of the sea floor, though there are no fossils of these animals preserved. The ‘Tyndall Stone’, or light brown fossilized limestone with darker streaks of trace fossils, are similar to the limestone used in the House of Parliament in Ottawa.
Fossils are easy to recognize once you know what you are looking for, but visitors must remember that the fossils should be left where they are for everyone’s enjoyment. The protection of Nunavut’s archaeological and paleontological heritage is an important priority. Disturbing archaeological sites or removing artifacts, including fossils, without a permit is strictly prohibited. For more information on permitting, contact the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Culture and Heritage.
No roads lead to Nunavut; our Territory is accessible only by air and sea.
First Air and Canadian North both fly regular daily schedules to Iqaluit from four main southern airline ‘hubs’: Ottawa, Montreal, and Edmonton (via Yellowknife and Rankin Inlet). Flights from Winnipeg (via Churchill and Rankin Inlet) are also available.
Kivalliq Air operates flights from Rankin Inlet to Coral Harbour throughout the week. Please contact the airline for schedule information and changes.
Where To Stay
Esungark Co-operative Hotel
Fax : 867-925-8308
Aiviit Hunters and Trappers Organization can provide local information about the land, country foods, local outfitters for sports hunts.
E & E Outfitting
Kajjaarnaq Arctic Tours
Naturally Natural Boat Tours