Isn’t it hard to believe this area was once a warm shallow ocean full of sea creatures? Today we are surrounded by tall beautiful mountains, full of stories that are 200 million years in the making. Stories fossilised and preserved in rock. This includes a story about a giant fossilised Ammonite (Titanites occidentalis) hidden on Castle Mountain! A carnivorous, coiled, squid-like predator that hunted these waters around 150 million years old. Finding this beauty took us on our next Deskie Adventure – an Ancient Ammonite Hike.
We’re going on an Ammonite Hike….
Ask the locals how to get the ammonite and you will see how elusive it is to find. And so, not too keen on getting lost, we booked an Ancient Ammonite Hike with Lee-Ann from Elk Valley Wildsight. Armed with water, snacks (because well, snacks!), bear spray and good banter, we headed off with our friends from Wildsight and Tourism Fernie. On the hunt for something soooo old, it probably hung out with dinosaurs! Maybe that’s why the scenery felt very ‘Jurassic Park-ish’!?
Out past the gun-range on Coal Creek and just after the first bridge you will find the trail-head. The path creeps alongside and then up and around the mountain to a creek bed. Follow the creek up until you spot the giant fossil. So, that sounds easy enough to find right!? Hmmmm, not so fast.. Clambering over and under fallen trees, zig-zagging through stinging nettles or heading down the wrong path can easily divert you off course. Certainly a beginner level hike however it is best you have someone who knows where they are going!
We stopped several times throughout the hike as Lee-Ann gives an interpretative talk . She spoke about the history of the mountains, types of rock found in the area and the fossils. And she generated some interesting discussion and thought on how WE can help protect and conserve our natural world.
We’re gonna see a big one…
If you look hard enough, you can find fossils of ancient creatures on mountain tops and hill sides all throughout the Elk Valley! A geological crew mapping seams of shale, siltstone and sandstone in the Fernie Formation discovered the ancient ammonite back in 1947. The team thought it was a ‘fossilised truck tire’ due to its size and shape but instead they had discovered the biggest complete ammonite fossil ever found in Canada!
While this ancient ammonite is bigger than any Deskie curled up, its closest relative today is a shelled nautilus and smaller than 20cm in size. It is said to have large eyes, long-suckerless tentacles and swam vertically using jet propulsion,varying the air pressure in its chamber to change depths. These carnivorous creatures hunted in shallow, warm waters around 400 – 65 million years ago. Did you know these creatures are part of the cephalopod family? The cephalopod family includes octopus and squid!
Whatever hike you’re making this season, make sure you look more closely for fossils!!
We’re not scared…
Out in the elements there is no stopping natural erosion of the ammonite however, we can minimise human impact! We definitely recommend booking an Ancient Ammonite Hike with the Elk Valley Wildsight team. Not only will you will safely get to the ammonite, you will also learn all about it! And, knowledge is power right!? The more we know about our environment, the more we can do our part to help conserve this beautiful area.
Lee-Ann and the Elk Valley Wildsight team work to ensure nature and the economy go hand in hand. You can read about the amazing initiatives they work on in the Fernie community including EcoGarden, Apple Capture and the Wild Nature Tours on their website. Wildsight is a registered charity and their five branches, including Elk Valley are separate non-profit societies. You can become a lifetime member or donate and help Wildsights mission for sustainable communities.
You can also visit Lee-Ann and the team at the Wildsight office located on 2nd Avenue. Make sure you look out for our new friend, Riley the dog who is an office regular. He loves hugs and treats!
It’s a beautiful day!
As always, we recommend checking out the Tourism Fernie website when planning your next visit to Fernie! It has all the latest and greatest information about our beautiful area!