Click here to skip to the content

All Around NB

Glacial Formations

We look around at the modern world, perhaps without thinking that we too live in a geologic period. Our period is called the Quaternary and represents the last 2 million years of Earth history.

We may think of geological landscapes as being rock, but the Quaternary includes unconsolidated material, loose sediments that have not yet become rock. In New Brunswick, sediments deposited during the most recent ice ages, about the last 120,000 years, represent the Quaternary Period. Much of the landscape around us is Quaternary including the glacial till, sand and gravel deposits left by melting glaciers, and the beaches, peat bogs and soils that blanket the bedrock.

Glacial Influence on New Brunswick

Unlike the other stories of New Brunswick’s geology, the Quaternary story encompasses the entire Province. Every place has a feature affected in some way by the ice age and we all live with the consequences of the last 100,000 years of geological processes.

Perhaps the most obvious Quaternary landscapes are found on New Brunswick’s coast. Beaches and barrier bars found on our three coastlines are among the most scenic places in the province. The complex landforms formed by glaciers such as eskers and drumlins are more difficult to see, especially when covered by dense forest. These features are often recognized from the air.

The sand and gravel used for construction and road building in New Brunswick, mostly comes from glacial deposits. Much of the water we drink comes from either a groundwater aquifer in a glacial deposit, or a surface water source on the glaciated landscape. If you have ever vacationed on the Northumberland coast, you were on beaches influenced by the melting glaciers 10,000 years ago.  The movement of glaciers across the province and the soils that have developed since the last glaciers melted determine where agriculture thrives.