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Stonehammer UNESCO Global Geopark in southern New Brunswick is the first North American member of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network. Its rocks tell the billion-year story of the evolution of eastern North America. Geological highlights include the location of the first Precambrian fossils described in the scientific literature, a Cambrian site that yielded one of the world’s largest trilobites, and Upper Carboniferous outcrops that include some of the oldest reptile trackways in the world. At the famous ‘Reversing Rapids’ in Saint John, visitors can see the boundary between the Late Precambrian Brookville Terrane and part of the Avalon Terrane and walk across the fault line that separates them.

The complex geology of Saint John and its surroundings have attracted geologists for nearly two centuries. One of the earliest explorers was Abraham Gesner, who is best known for his pioneering work on the distillation of kerosene. Gesner was the first Provincial Geologist in the British Empire and produced an influential series of reports on the geology of New Brunswick beginning in 1839. In 1842, he opened one of Canada’s first public museums in Saint John to display his geological collection.

Amateur geologists founded the Steinhammer (or Stonehammer) Club in 1857. Prominent early members included George Matthew who became Canada’s Cambrian fossil expert, and Fred Hartt, who went on to lead a geological survey of Brazil. William Dawson, Canada’s most influential scientist and the long time Principal of McGill University, mentored club members. 

Stonehammer UNESCO Global Geopark, named in honour of the region’s nineteenth century pioneers, covers an area of 2500 km2 in southwest New Brunswick and contains an almost complete record of the last billion years of Earth history including 107 rock formations and igneous suites. Only rocks of the Jurassic and Paleogene-Neogene periods are missing from the onshore succession. The region’s long history of exploration and complex geology means that many sites in the geopark are now considered ‘classic localities’ of global or regional importance. The new geopark designation aims to promote conservation, education and geotourism.