Click here to skip to the content


Tropical New Brunswick

Colour image of globe showing changing position of continents 310 million years agoUpper Carboniferous rocks underlie much of the interior of eastern New Brunswick. These thick layers of sedimentary rock generally lie undisturbed on the older geology below. Those older rocks were forged by the closing of oceans, folded, faulted and intruded by molten rock. By comparison the rocks of the Upper Carboniferous were laid down on top in rivers and lakes. In central Brunswick near Minto and Chipman coal has been mined from these rocks since the 1600s. Excepting along the coast, the rocks are nearly invisible, covered by forests that continue to the horizon. Along river valleys is where we catch a glimpse of the bedrock below. The often flat-lying sedimentary rocks provide a relatively gentle landscape crossed by rivers that almost lazily wind their way to the Northumberland Strait.

Some of New Brunswick’s most familiar landscapes are found where Upper Carboniferous rocks meet the sea.  Many of the Upper Carboniferous rocks are flat-lying sedimentary layers that seem to run forever along the coast. In northern New Brunswick the Clifton Formation stretches from the beach near Janeville to Miscou.

In the Upper Carboniferous New Brunswick was still positioned near the equator and was beginning to move northward. The southern polar ice cap continued to freeze and melt, causing changes in the sea level and climate. The Windsor Sea from an earlier time was gone and the lowlands now hosted rivers and rainforests, swamps and bogs. It was hot and humid. Peat formed in the low-lying wetlands.

Colour graphic illustrating the weathering of mountains that creates alluvial fans and river systems

The Carboniferous is often called the ‘Coal Age’ and Upper Carboniferous deposits are typical of the coal swamp environments. The trees of the Carboniferous were not like the trees of today. Some of the dominant groups like giant seed-ferns are extinct. The huge lycopod trees that grew 30 to 50 metres tall are today a minor component of the forest. The Carboniferous and Permian Periods are also called the "Age of Amphibians". However this is the time when early reptiles evolved and thrived. The oldest reptile skeleton in the world was found at Joggins, Nova Scotia and some of the oldest reptile footprint trackways are found on the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy.