Canadian Rockies – Alberta Badlands Geology Guidebook

The Canadian Rockies to Alberta Badlands geology guidebook is published by the Association for Women Geoscientists.

The Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG) published their first geology field trip guidebook in late 2016 and it is now available for sale to the general public. This guideboook is a collection of geology road logs, associated geological information, and local cultural history of areas within the Canadian Rockies and the Alberta Badlands. The following text is a brief summary of the guidebook:

“TECTONICS, CLIMATE CHANGE AND EVOLUTION – SOUTHERN CANADIAN CORDILLERA: Road Log and Accompanying Narratives From: Calgary – Lake Louise – Icefields – Field – Revelstoke – Fernie -Dinosaur Provincial Park – Calgary”, published by the Association for Women Geoscientists, 2016.

This field trip guidebook is written by Katherine J.E. Boggs and Debra L. Hanneman, and edited by Janet Wert Crampton and Stephanie Yager. It is the AWG’s first fully published field trip guidebook and is a field-tested guide from their two-week 2014 field trip through the Canadian Rockies and Alberta’s Badlands area.

The guidebook is a 209-page geology tour through many of the well-known parts of the Alberta Canadian Rockies, including the Front and Main Ranges of the Canadian Rockies and the Columbia Icefields. The Burgess Shale’s Walcott Quarry, the Okanagan Valley vineyards, and the Rocky Mountain Trench are trip highlights for geo-tours in British Columbia. The field trip guidebook ends with a geology tour of the Crowsnest Pass area on the British Columbia/Alberta border, and with field stops in Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park and at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta.

The field guide is printed on double-sided 8.5″ x 11″ pages with the guide cover on 100 lb paper and the text on 80 lb paper. It has black wire-o binding and a clear acetate front and a black acetate backing for improved field durability. The guidebook’s cost is $55 USD (which includes shipping), and can be purchased at the AWG online store or by phoning the AWG main office at 303-412-6219.

A Different Look At The Burgess Shale – The Stanley Glacier Burgess Shale Hike, Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada

The Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale and its contained fossils are legendary to earth scientists. These fossils are by far the best record of Cambrian animal fossils. The importance of the Burgess Shale fossils is also linked to their excellent preservation. The fossils include many soft bodied animals in addition to those with hard parts – an extremely rare occurrence for fossil assemblages.

I finally hiked to the Walcott Quarry on Fossil Ridge near Field, B.C., last year, just to better understand the context of the Burgess Shale. It was well worth the effort (it is a long, and as other hikers phrased it – a gut-busting hike). Before my Walcott Quarry hike, I’d read that Kootenay National Park just started hosting hikes to Burgess Shale type faunas (BST) in the Stanley Glacier area. It only took a good dinner and a beer after the Walcott Quarry hike to decide that I’d do the Stanley Glacier Burgess Shale hike.

Stanley Glacier Valley, Kootenay National Park - the view is looking west from the upper talus slopes.
Stanley Glacier Valley, Kootenay National Park – the view is looking west from the upper talus slopes.

Stanley Glacier BST fossils (approximately 505 million years in age) are about 40 km southeast of the Field, B.C. (Yoho National Park) locales. Recent work in both the Marble Canyon and the Stanley Glacier areas of Kootenay National Park yielded noteworthy additions to understanding the BST fossils and their depositional environments. BST fossils found in the Marble Canyon area include 25 new species of organisms; 8 new species are now recorded for the Stanley Glacier BST fossils. Of more interest to me (being a sedimentologist), is that the depositional environment in the Kootenay National Park area differs from that of the Field, B.C. area. Although the Burgess Shale fossils are found within the Stephen Formation in both areas, there is a marked difference in this rock unit from one area to the other area. Around Field, B.C., the Stephen Formation is the “thick or basinal” (about 276 to 370 meters thick) Stephen and it resulted from deposition at the base of the older Cathedral Formation Escarpment (a submarine cliff) via turbidity flows. In the Stanley Glacier area, the Stephen Formation is relatively “thin” (about 33 meters thick) and is probably the result of deposition at the distal edge of a marine platform (Caron and others, 2010; Gaines, 2011). The stratigraphic placement of the Burgess Shale rock units also differs from the Field, B.C. area to the Stanley Glacier area. Based upon the presence certain trilobites and stratigraphic evidence (Caron and others, 2010), the “thin” Stephen Formation at Stanley Glacier is stratigraphically above the Field, B.C. Burgess Shale localities.

The Cambrian rock units on the south wall of the Stanley Glacier area. The Stephen Formation is the unit that contains the Burgess Shale type fossils. The lockbox location is the hike’s end.

With that small bit of Burgess Shale background, I’ll get back to the actual hike up the Stanley Glacier valley to the Stephen Formation talus slopes and outcrop. The hike is hosted by Kootenay National Park and is about 10 km for the round trip. The elevation gain is about 450 meters. The first part of the hike is through glacial material and a fire-swept lodgepole pine forest. Forest fires burned through this area most recently in 1968 and in 2003. Luckily for paleontologists, the fire bared many slopes and definitely helped in locating BST fossil beds. A little more than halfway through the hike, one breaks out of the trees onto the talus slopes of Stanley Glacier’s valley. The hike continues over the talus slope to a very large boulder. Several BST fossil specimens are locked in a box kept behind this boulder. Our guide gives an informative talk about the lockbox fossils and we have much time to pick around the talus slope for more fossils.

Burgess Shale type fossil specimens are kept in a lock box behind the large rock. These specimens are the focus of an informative talk by the Kootenay National Park hike guide.
Burgess Shale type fossil specimens are kept in a lockbox behind the large rock located on the talus slope. These specimens are the focus of an informative talk by the Kootenay National Park hike guide.

In 1989, an expedition party from the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) located fossils from Stephen Formation talus in this area (Rigby and Collins, 2004: Sponges of the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale and Stephen Formations, British Columbia; Royal Ontario Museum Contributions in Science 1: 1–155.). Caron and others (2010) also document that some of their fossil assemblage material came from the talus slope, so it’s worth some time to look around (Caron and others, 2010 GSA Data Repository).

Talus slopes beneath the Cambrian Stephen Formation are prime areas for Burgess Shale type fossils.
Talus slopes beneath the Cambrian Stephen Formation are prime areas for Burgess Shale type fossils.

Keep in mind that this is within a Canadian National Park, so do not keep any of the fossil material. The quarry that has been worked recently in this area (the quarry was initially worked in 2008 by ROM earth scientists) is yet beyond the hike’s end point, near the southwest edge of the cirque.

Stanley Glacier BST shelly fauna includes characteristic Cambrian taxa such as hyolithids, brachiopods, and trilobites. Soft-bodied BST creatures such as the necktobenthic or nektonic arthropods and proto-arthropods Stanleycaris hirpex n. gen., n. sp., Tuzoia retifera, and Sidneyia inexpectans also are part of the BST fauna. Trace fossils are plentiful on some bedding surfaces. These include trails, shallow burrows, and arthropod trackways.

Tuzoia - a fossil arthropod specimen from the lockbox collection.
Tuzoia – a fossil arthropod specimen from the lockbox collection.
Sidneyia - a fossil arthropod from the lockbox collection.
Sidneyia – a fossil arthropod from the lockbox collection (this specimen is actually from Marble Canyon).
Sponge spicules - from the fossil lockbox collection.
Sponge spicules – from the fossil lockbox collection.
Haplophrentis - an enigmatic tubular fossil known as a hyolith. This fossil is from the lockbox collection.
Haplophrentis – an enigmatic tubular fossil known as a hyolith. This fossil is from the lockbox collection.
Anomolarcaris claw - from the lockbox collection.
Anomalorcaris claw – from the lockbox collection.
Feeding traces - from the talus slope near the lockbox.
Feeding traces – from the talus slope near the lockbox.

Canadian Rockies AWG Field Trip – A Summary

The AWG 2014 Canadian Rockies Field Trip took place from August 28 to September 7, 2014, with a Calgary-area geology pre-trip for early arrivals on August 27.  The main part of the field trip commenced with a mid-morning departure on the 28th from Calgary, and we all headed west along Canada Highway 1 to Lake Louise. After spending two days in the Lake Louise area, we drove north to the Columbia Icefields. A few of us continued further north the next day, on an side trip to Jasper. From the Icefields we toured south to Field, British Columbia, over to Revelstoke, and ended our British Columbia time in Fernie. We then drove east, back into Alberta, and spent time at Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks and at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller. The trip ended with our group once more back in Calgary, Alberta.

There were 22 people as full-time field-trippers and two more people on the trip during the Icefields to Field, B.C. part of the trip. Two of the full-time trip participants were students and one of the additional, part-time trip participants, was a student. All of the students on the field trip are from Mount Royal University in Calgary and are students of our field trip leader, Katherine Boggs. Paul Hoffman and Mindy Brugman also helped out for a day or so during the trip. Marcia Knadle and Debra Hanneman did the trip budget and logistics. We had a great field trip guidebook, thanks largely to Katherine Boggs’ efforts. The field trip guidebook, “Tectonics, Climate Change, and Evolution: Southern Canadian Cordillera” will be on sale at the AWG online store soon.

Some of us took to the water and canoed around Moraine Lake near Lake Louise, Alberta. Moraine Lake is located within the valley known as the “Valley of the Ten Peaks” which was once featured on the Canadian twenty dollar bill.
Some of us took to the water and canoed around Moraine Lake near Lake Louise, Alberta. Moraine Lake is located within the valley known as the “Valley of the Ten Peaks” which was once featured on the Canadian twenty dollar bill.
Katherine Boggs talks to the field trip crew about area geology at a stop along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta.
Katherine Boggs talks to the field trip crew about area geology at a stop along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta.
Our intrepid field crew hikes the Athabasca Glacier, one of the six major glaciers of the Columbia Icefield.
Our intrepid field crew hikes the Athabasca Glacier, one of the six major glaciers of the Columbia Icefield.
Paul Hoffman explains features of the Neoproterozoic Old Fort Point Formation near Jasper, Alberta.
Paul Hoffman explains features of the Neoproterozoic Old Fort Point Formation near Jasper, Alberta.
Some of the field trip group took the arduous hike up to the famous Walcott Quarry that is developed within the Cambrian Burgess Shale near Field, British Columbia.
Some of the field trip group took the arduous hike up to the famous Walcott Quarry that is developed within the Cambrian Burgess Shale near Field, British Columbia.
A member of our field trip group shows us one of the Burgess Shale’s trilobites from the Walcott Quarry.
A member of our field trip group shows us one of the Burgess Shale’s trilobites while at the Walcott Quarry.
One of the trip’s frequent rainy days – but we still had fun by the Kicking Horse River at its confluence with the Columbia River, near Golden, British Columbia.
One of the trip’s frequent rainy days – but we still had fun by the Kicking Horse River at its confluence with the Columbia River, near Golden, British Columbia.
Our field trip group poses by Columbia Lake, which forms the headwaters for both the Columbia and Kootenay rivers, and lies within the enigmatic Rocky Mountain Trench near Canal Flats, British Columbia.
Our field trip group poses by Columbia Lake, which forms the headwaters for both the Columbia and Kootenay rivers, and lies within the enigmatic Rocky Mountain Trench near Canal Flats, British Columbia.
The Frank Slide was a must-stop as we drove along the Crowsnest Highway near Blairmore, Alberta. The slide happened on April 29, 1903, when about 82 million tons of limestone fell off of Turtle Mountain.
The Frank Slide was a must-stop as we drove along the Crowsnest Highway near Blairmore, Alberta. The slide happened on April 29, 1903, when about 82 million tons of limestone fell off of Turtle Mountain.
Part of our field trip group discusses Centrosaur Bone Bed 43 during our guided hike at Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta.
Part of our field trip group discusses Centrosaur Bone Bed 43 during our guided hike at Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta.