Imagine, you spend your three weeks' vacation in the south-western part of Canada. Where would you go? Of course: Glacier N.P., Waterton, Banff, Jasper, Vancouver Island to see grizzlies, black bear, moose, elk, bison, salmon, whales. In this case you would miss one great thing: YOHO N.P. just near Banff housing the famous BURGESS SHALE, a site bearing fossils from the Cambrian, approx. 530 Million years old.
You get there quite easily. You just have to book a guided tour with The Yoho-Burgess Shale Foundation, Field, B.C., Canada, meet at the agreed date at Yoho Brothers' Trading Post (Field and Trans-Canada Highway Intersection) and then ....

START your trip early in the morning at Takakkaw Falls. The first kilometer of the total 10,5 kms' hike (one way) is going steep uphill, then you travel on a moderate uphill track through forest.

CROSSING rock formations (good walking shoes are not only recommended but necessary) you will enjoy a magnificent view of the landscape, Emerald Lake at your feet and the glaciers opposite you, with short breaks in between to take your breath. Do not forget to bring a hat, waterproof clothing, water and food.

DAVID , our guide, a graduate student, did his job very well. Adjusting the walking pace of the group to the ability of their members, nobody was exhausted half way at lunch break. The total elevation gain of this trip is 720 m from Takakkaw Falls! After lunch David gave an extensive, very interesting and excellent lecture on what had been found long time ago by Mr.Walcott, the history of the quarry and what is being done now; we enjoyed it thoroughly and nobody went to have an after-lunch-nap. At 3 p.m after having managed the last steep part we reached our summit:

WALCOTT'S QUARRY. Mr. Walcott, an authority on Cambrian fossils, discovered the famous soft-bodied fossils in Burgess Shale in 1909.

Walcott's quarry is not the only digging site nowadays.There are some more, but till now Walcott's quarry is the most famous and interesting for tourists like us. Only guided tourist groups are admitted to the fossil site in order not to disturb the continous work. We had the chance to look around and watch the research team at their

And tedious work it is. Living in a tent camp nearby during the excavation season, digging, splitting stone slab by stone slab day by day from morning to evening - and hoping to find something new - is not everybody's choice. No cinema, no bar within next reach after a hard day's work.

DESMOND COLLINS "PHIL" (Curator at the Royal Ontario Museum), the leading researcher of the Burgess Shale. We had the honour to be welcomed by this famous scientist, the more as it had been the last day of the excavation season. He led us 530 Millions of years back when at this place there had been a sea with animals living and dieing, being then embedded in the mud, getting fossilized, explaining the reasons why they were in such an excellent state of fossilization. When the rock was folded up, the fossil animals became exposed by erosion for present scientist to dig them up. Thanks to PROF. COLLINS and our guide DAVID this trip was a really unique experience.

We were allowed to take pictures of the fossils having been dug up, representing only a few animals inhabiting the ocean approx. 530 Millions of years ago

Filamentous cyynobycteria

Sponge Vauxia

Crustacean Canadaspis

Priapulid Ottoia (8 cm long)


Arachnomorph Burgessia

Arachnomorph Leanchoilia

Marella (2 cm long)

But number one is ....
up to 60 cm long

Animation of Anomalocaris, a Burgess shale predator. Inspired by a drawing by Marianne Collins © copyright 1996 Starry Messenger Communications from ScienceWeb

We did not see Pikaia. Pikaia my be the ancestor of all animals with backbones, including ourselves. So come to Burgess Shale and try your luck.

WAY BACK we started at approx. 4 p.m. Everybody was full of new impressions; the group dispersed when walking downhill, everybody went at his own pace, DAVID the last in the line taking care that nobody was left behind. It was early September, the sun started going down and when we were passing the shrubbs full of berries on the last few kilometers we remembered the signboard in Yoho Reception Center: "It's berry season now. Be aware when hiking, that you might walk through the dining room of a bear." Fortunate or unfortunate for us no bear showed up. Anyhow, it had been a great day.

Join and support the work of
P.O.Box 148, Field, British Columbia, Canada V0A 1G0
Telephone: (230) 343 - 6480
Fax: (250) 343 - 6426

and learn more about the BURGESS SHALE.

As "friend" of the association you will receive

Look for the uptodate program of the Earth Science Educational Hikes

More about Bugess Shale in the Internet:

On The Fossil Trail by Rob Scoble (Another trip report)

Visiting the Bugess Shale from Yoho National Park Park

Burgess Shale by Andrew MacRae
with photos and many links to related sites

All about Burgess Shale from ScienceWeb

Strange Creatures - A Burgess Shale Fossil Sampler "The Fossil Index " and "Homepage" from the Smithsonian

Explorations in Science and Technology:
The Burgess Shale Fossil Bed from ScienceWeb

Text by Gertraud Winter (Mai 1998)
Photos by Gerhard Winter (Sept 5th, 1997)