Northern BC’s Tumbler Ridge may be small in number (population: 2,983), but here, amid the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, all offerings are on a grand scale, including the remains of prehistoric beasts who once roamed the landscape. In this tight-knit, forward-thinking community, locals like to think big, too — a happy fact celebrated by the recent unveiling of a new 7,722 square-kilometre (2,981 square-mile) Global Geopark, a designation meant to protect and promote geological heritage and sustainable local development.
It was Charles Helm, a local doctor, who first saw Tumbler Ridge’s potential as a Geopark; fitting inspiration, as it was Helms’s son, Daniel, who co-discovered the area’s original dinosaur trackway, or footprints, in 2002. To Helm, the designation was a natural fit — Tumbler Ridge’s distinctive blend of geology, palaeontology, topography, scenery and human history, combined with a plethora of outdoor adventure options and a top-notch museum, have transformed the former coal mining town into a thriving outdoor adventure playground.
As BC’s first UNESCO recognized Global Geopark, Tumbler Ridge joins a distinguished Global Geoparks Network that includes 111 significant sites across 32 countries. The designation was achieved, in part, because of the community’s impressive Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre, a repository and scientific hub for the study, assessment and interpretation of fossil treasures unearthed in the Peace River Region. The centre’s crown jewel, the Dinosaur Discover Gallery, is an educational draw that displays meticulous palaeontology exhibits, including a full-scale re-creation of a 100 million-year-old dinosaur-track environment, a massive fossil record of Triassic marine fish and reptiles, and an interactive theatre that brings the pre-history of the Peace Region to life.
And there’s yet another feather in Tumbler Ridge’s cap: here, southwest of Dawson Creek, adventurers are never far from geological wonders or extraordinary landscapes. Enthusiasts can explore a network of hiking trails that lead to a mammoth 51 geosites, many boasting waterfalls, rock formations, alpine meadows and lakes, mountain summits and caves, canyons and more. Keeners can team up with Wild River Adventure Tours, for example, and jet boat up the Murray River to Kinuseo Falls, a spectacular waterfall that is a neck-craning 19 stories high, or lace up for a heart-thumping hiking tour of the Shipyard (unique rock towers) and the "prow" of Titanic Rock.
For a final excursion, curious explorers will be compelled to sign on for Dinosaur Trackway Tours, guided one- and two-hour interpretive excursions that shed light on the Flatbed and Wolverine tracksites. (Insider intel highlights little-known facts and cool stats.) The Wolverine site is best appreciated by dino enthusiasts at dusk, via an illuminating lantern-light stroll that reveals footprints and dinosaur skin impressions in all their glory. trgg.ca; wnms.ca; trmf.ca