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Landscapes Transcription

It has taken a billion years to create New Brunswick’s landscape. Features so common to the people who live here have a complex geologic history.  New Brunswick, on the east coast of Canada, is part of the Maritime Provinces that also includes Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. All three share a common story of exotic geologic terranes welded to the ancient core of North America. A terrane is a fragment of a continent broken off one piece of the earth’s crust and welded to the crust on another plate. Ganderia and Avalonia, terranes that originated in the southern hemisphere, were sliced off a continental mass near the South Pole, and collided with ancient North America. That collision created volcanic island chains, the Appalachian Mountains, and large flat plains as the mountains were slowly eroded away.

Visitors to southeast New Brunswick near Alma appreciate the beauty of the Caledonia Highlands. The rugged hills of Precambrian and Cambrian rocks more than 500 million years old are much of what remains of our oldest geologic history. As Ganderia and Avalonia collided with North America, the ancient Iapetus Ocean collapsed in front of them, subducted back into the Earth. Old volcanic island chains created during the process make up the Kingston Peninsula and are more than 400 million years old.  Near communities like Florenceville, Edmundston and Glen Livet the layered sedimentary rocks so common on the highways were formed on the ancient ocean bottom.

When Ganderia and Avalonia finally collided, the Iapetus Ocean was gone and a mountain chain formed along eastern North America. Remnants of that mountain chain cross the Province from the southwest near St. Stephen, through Mount Carleton and Campbellton. They are now part of a scenic drive we call the ‘Appalachian Range Route’. Granite rocks near St. George and the volcanic remnants at Mount Pleasant and Sugarloaf Provincial Park were created during mountain building 400 million years ago.The collision of continents created a supercontinent called Pangea. New Brunswick was near the middle, located below the equator. Rocks that formed about 350 to 300 million years ago, record our tropical ‘coal age’ past. Fossils of giant lycopod trees, seed ferns and horsetail plants called Calamites are found in these rocks in places like Fredericton Junction and Clifton.

The sandstone landscape of east central New Brunswick forms a triangle from Fredericton and Minto in the west, southeast toward Sackville and northeast to Miscou. Rocks on the coast near Grande Anse, Richibucto, Hopewell or Cape Enrage lie flat and relatively undisturbed on the older complex geology below. Rivers that slowly eroded the Appalachian Mountains formed these rocks. Today the Miramichi River still winds its way across the same landscape, slowly eroding the rocks and washing them out to sea. 

The creation of the Atlantic Ocean broke Pangea into pieces and separated rocks in the Maritime Provinces from rocks now found in Europe and Africa. The Bay of Fundy is all that remains in New Brunswick of the birth of the Atlantic Ocean 200 million years ago.  As Pangea was torn apart, rift valleys formed a long chain down the length of the continent. Some of New Brunswick’s most scenic landscapes of red rocks at St. Martins and the Fundy Trail Parkway were formed in the rift as rivers carried sand and gravel into the valley.

Glaciers during the last ‘ice ages’ have softened New Brunswick’s rugged past. Glaciers covered the entire Province for much of the past 100,000 years. They only retreated a short time ago leaving New Brunswick glacier-free for the last 10,000 years. The rolling hills of southern New Brunswick, the St. John River valley, the beaches and sand dunes from Miscou to Shediac are all part of our ice age history.