Parc national de Miguasha

Portrait of the park

History of Parc national de Miguasha

Despite a mention in 1842, the site was really discovered in 1879 by scientists from the Geological Survey of Canada. Very quickly, archaeological digs and fossil research attracted attention to the Gaspésie cliff. For a century, important institutions in Europe and American built collections from Miguasha. 1937 was a decisive moment in the park’s history, when a Québec collection was harvested by René Bureau, who would become an ardent defender of the site.

In 1972, Québec acquired part of the cliff to protect the fossil content, followed by the opening of the first museum in1978. The park was granted its status in 1985, ensuring the preservation of this scientific heritage for future generations.

In June, 1991, the second museum was inaugurated with the opening of the 7th Symposium on the Study of Inferior Vertebrates. The event brought together 60 paleontologists from 14 countries, presided over by Erik Jarvik from Sweden, whose work on the Eusthenopteron fish has gone down in history.

Sweden, whose work on the Eusthenopteron fish has gone down in history. At the turn of the second millennium, the park received the honour of being designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A new museum, the third, with a research centre, was founded in 2003. The fossil cliff bears the name of René-Bureau since 2017, in tribute to the man who carried the conservation torch for decades.

The Park’s Natural Heritage

The Landscape

Parc national de Miguasha is among the most beautiful landscapes of maritime Gaspésie. On Miguasha Point with the mountains as a backdrop, the park opens onto the estuary of Rivière Ristigouche, very close to where the river becomes Baie des Chaleurs. The park extends over an area of less than 1 km2 on a thin 2 km strip where the fossil cliff is located.

The Fossil Cliff

The cliff is composed of 2 geological formations, the Fleurant formation and the Escuminac formation. The first and oldest formation is a fragile blend of rocks of different sizes consolidated by sand that contains rare coral and shell fossils. The other formation is made of sedimentary rock, or sandstone and claystone, in which all the fossils that have made this site famous are preserved.

A Variety of Vegetation

Even though most eyes are turned toward the cliff and its fossils, the park surprises visitors with its diversity of plants. Up to 167 plant species were inventoried from 1997 to 1999. Most plant families are represented in the park.

Fragile Species

Some indigenous and fragile plant species live within the park, including 4 rare orchid species: the yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium calceolus), the early coral-root (Corallorhiza trifida), the large coral root (Corallorhiza maculata) and the Habenaria hyperborea.

The Cultural Heritage of the Park

Aboriginal Presence

Aboriginal presence in the park’s vicinity goes back many centuries. The Micmacs, a nomad tribe from the Maritimes, frequented Baie-des-Chaleurs to go hunting and fishing. The Aboriginal heritage is still present, since the Micmac term Miguasha means red earth, in reference to the colour of the mountain overlooking the park.

The First Settlement

In 1760, following the British conquest of the French, British soldiers decided to stay in the country. Several chose to live on Miguasha Point. The Wafer, Connors and Hayes families who live there today are descendants of these soldiers

The Shoolbred Seigneurie

In 1788, a London merchant, John Shoolbred, was offered a seigneurie in Baie-des-Chaleurs by the King of England. It included Miguasha Point. In 1801, John Shoolbred gave the seigneurie to his son James, a merchant established in the United States. With little interest in the land, he sold it in 1809 to Matthew Stewart, a merchant from Saint-Omer, who kept it until the abolition of the seigniorial regime in 1855.

Acadian Families

After 1855, Acadian families who had always had fears about the seigniorial system settled on Miguasha Point. These families, such as the Caissys, the Roys, the Landrys, the Bienvenues, and others still live in the vicinity of the park.

The Arrival of the Scientists

Foreign scientists and collectors started going to Miguasha to conduct archaeological fossil digs in 1879, a phenomena that would grow in the 20th century. Some families, such as the Plourdes, worked with the scientists on the cliff. Others, like the Landrys, offered food and shelter to these people from English Canada, the United States and Europe.

A New Municipality

After the abolition of the seigniorial system, the region became the municipality of Shoolbred.  Just before World War I it was subdivided into the municipalities of Escuminac and St-Jean-l'Évangéliste, the latter becoming the municipality of Nouvelle in1953. Nowadays, almost the whole park is part of the municipality of Nouvelle. Only the western end is located in the municipality of Escuminac.

Did you know?

The Park in Numbers

Year established: 1985
Area: 0,8 km2
Annual attendance: 17,000 visit-days

Lists of Species

(in French only)


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