Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ross Creek to Sheddley Cove. Conifer Fossils

Ross Creek to Sheddley Cove

Conifer Fossils and Agates 

 Ross Creek, Nova Scotia (Bennett's Bay)
 In the following chapters I’ll be highlighting some of my favourite rockhounding locations.  Many of these places are only accessible with a guide as access is very dependent on tide times and water levels. Timing may be critical to get through certain pinch points. These beaches and coves may be difficult to locate via the overgrown woods paths and trails that lead to them. A few locations have fixed ropes in place to enable climbers to reach the beach on very steep slopes. Some of the sections of beach we hike have treacherous terrain that must be navigated with extreme care. I won’t be posting any GPS locations but if you’d like to know more about how to get to these places contact me. Reaching several of these locales is very risky, but worth serious effort.

Ross Creek to Sheddley Cove. Conifer Fossils.

The Coves at Ross Creek, N.S.

Scots Bay Formation. Fundy Rocks Photo.

"One hypothesis is that the Scot's Bay Formation was deposited in depressions formed from collapsed lava vents...which may have also provided silica-rich hydrothermal fluids which eventually silicified the fossil material you gathered. Here you can almost imagine the outline of a depression." - Mike Bromley.

We begin the hike a couple of hours after high tide and head East from the beach at Ross Creek. We jump the creek and within minutes are scrambling over basalt outcroppings, in places as slippery as ice. If you look North on a clear day you can see the sea spires or stacks at the very tip of Cape Split across Scots bay and towards the Minas Channel. The first cove soon comes into view. This is the boneyard. Broken conifer fossils are strewn all over the beach. The remnants of Early Jurassic period fossilized plants. These conifers would be similar to a cycad which is a primitive plant that resembled a squashed palm tree. The fossils can be cosidered a kind of precursor to the coniferous tree. There is a small exposure of this Early Jurassic rock on top of the basalts in the small coves east of Ross Creek. This is called the Scots Bay Formation and contains various bits and ends of these fossilized conifers.

Fossilized conifer showing in the Jurassic limestone cliff
Fossilzed conifers become filled with jasper, agate and may contain cores of amethyst and beautiful banded agates. They are prized by rockhounds (who know what they are) and are highly sought after in their complete form. When they are completely circled or encrusted in a stromatolite like bark.
 Conifer Fossil embedded in the cliff face. Photo by Richard Baird.

I enjoy studying the details of the conifer fossils that are still encased in the Cliff. some of them are massive and have beautiful Amethyst cores. A natural conifer fossil display in what I call Cove #1.

Below is a selection of conifer fossils from my collection. Most are complete. Meaning they have the casing intact.

Conifer Fossil from the Fundy Rocks Collection

I recently found a 30lb. "complete" fossil at Ross Creek. 
30 lb. fossil found by Chris Sheppard
Fossil with jasper and core of amethyst.
Banded agate core in complete fossil


These fossils are ideal for jewelery making as you can get several beautiful high quality pendants cut from the same piece.  Especially if the fossil isn't complete. The one below was missing a small portion of its outer casing but is still excellent working material.

Large Conifer fossil from the Fundy Rocks Collection

Heavy rains and the freeze/ thaw cycle of late winter and early spring will also reveal sections of fossils in the cliffs that will eventually fall to the beach or get eroded by the tides. It is against the law to remove specimens from the cliffs.

The selection of core agate and jasper is endless...

Looking east into the remaining small coves.

After exploring the five small coves we come to Broad Cove where the trees seem to engulf the cliffs and almost touch the beach in places. 

Just beyond Broad Cove is Sheddley Cove. The Sheddley Cove beach is always worth spending time searching. Complete Cycads, Jasper, Amethyst and Agates can be found, as well as Zeolites.

Unique agate/jasper found in the brook at Sheddley Cove on our last trip.
The agate/jasper has been sliced into slabs

This large “shadow” fortification agate with a crystal core from Sheddley Cove near Ross Creek, is typical of agates that can be found on these shores. It is a perfect example of the agates formed in the basalts of this shore, but these agates are not abundant here and one of this quality is a rare find.

Shadow Agate. Fundy Rocks Collection

This beach is also accessible via the old Sheddley Cove road off the 358 just past Stewart Mountain Road.

The beach is a good 45min. hike from the road. Ross Creek to Sheddley Cove is also a great place to find what I call "bubble agates". They are actually amygdules or vesicles formed when gas pockets in the volcanic lava (basalts) cooled and were filled with agate forming materials, quartz crystals and zeolites. On the outside they don't look particularly special. Sort of lumpy and  rounded. On the inside they can be quite interesting. Always a surprise.

Selection of Amygdules

Assortment of Amygdules which essentially were gas bubbles in the basaltic lava that were filled with a percolating silica rich gel. Because quartz is harder than basalt we eventually just find the Amygdule be it filled with agate, ,jasper or zeolite mineral. These were found scattered throughout the coves at Ross Creek.


Amygdule Show Piece. Fundy Rocks Collection

Leaving the beach as the sun begins to set at Ross Creek.

Ells Brook Agates

West of Scots Bay there is a brook that leads to a small beach worth mentioning. I have found a few very interesting agates on this easily accessible little beach.

Ells Brook Beach

My dog Henry at Ells Brook Beach. (One of the few beaches he is capable of reaching). The beach is as easy to access as Scots Bay.

2012 Ells Brook Update:

After a year of sharing mineral photographs on Facebook, one rare agate from Ells Brook (Scots Bay, Nova Scotia) has surpassed all others in attracting interest, on-line and at presentations. It has been shared 50 times all over the world in several languages. People are very curious about it and several have offered to buy it (but it's not for sale!). This agate is more than a "pretty picture": it's a significant find not collected before. We are posting an updated version so that people will know where it came from. Fundy Rocks is updating and re-formatting the mineral galleries.

Conifer Fossils are also found at Ells Brook.

Some small agates from Ells Brook.

 I will continue to highlight my favorite rockhounding locations in the coming weeks. Again, if you'd like to know more about a location or about precise directions contact me. We go on rockhounding treks at least once a week as our schedules permit. We just got back from an excellent trip out to Amethyst Cove which I'll highlight in my next post. If you are interested in these trips let me know as well.

Chris Sheppard Photography 

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Important Disclaimer:
Always accompany a guide to a new or remote area described in our blog or on Facebook. Many of the shoreline places we visit could potentially leave you trapped beneath cliffs at high tides of immensely powerful currents. Always know the tide times and plan accordingly. Being trapped may not always be a survival option. Terrain is steep and dangerous in places. Weather is unpredictable along the shore. Never attempt to descend or ascend an unfamiliar cliff area. Basalt can be loose, crumbly and very unstable. Be aware of falling rocks and boulders. Slide climbing should never be attempted without an experienced guide and never by children. Caution is strongly advised. Please rockhound safely and responsibly. Respect private property. Always get permission when accessing the shore from private property.


  1. That 2nd agate from Ells Brook is really neat. I've never seen anything quite like it!

  2. Magnificent images....thank you - a Ross Creek fan.

  3. Oh I wish I knew about what is what along the shore as you do. I love looking at your images and tagging along.

    Though I do live in Nova Scotia and love exploring Fundy, my lack of knowledge disappoints me when I pick up treasures along the shore.

  4. Thank you for a great little tour, Chris!