Welcome to Stonehammer, a geological park where you can experience a billion years of Earth’s history. The landscape of the Stonehammer geological park has been created by the collision of continents, the closing and opening of oceans, volcanoes, earthquakes, ice ages and climate change. The rocks of our park have been witness to the evolution of life, from the first discovery of Precambrian stromatolite fossils, to the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ of life, to the evolution of vertebrates and the emergence of life on land. The park includes geological stories from late Precambrian time a billion years ago to the most recent Ice Age, and almost everything between.
Why call it Stonehammer? Our geological park was one of the first places in Canada to be explored by geologists. In 1857 a group of young men in Saint John formed the ‘Steinhammer Club’ to explore the geology near their home. Even earlier, in 1838, another city resident Dr. Abraham Gesner began work as the first Provincial Geologist in the British Empire. Gesner opened one of the first public museums in Canada. Steinhammer Club members used Dr. Gesner’s reports as a guide to their work and later founded the Natural History Society of New Brunswick. Geologists have been visiting the park we call Stonehammer ever since and continue to make new discoveries.
The Stonehammer logo recognizes some of the many geological features of the park and the connection between people and geology. The central symbol is the trilobite in honour of one of our best-known fossils. Trilobites are extinct crab-like animals that lived on the ocean bottom starting in the Cambrian Period, about 530 million years ago. Steinhammer Club members George Matthew and Fred Hartt, and their colleague Loring Bailey found the first Cambrian age trilobites in Canada in the park in 1863. In the 1880s George’s young son Will Matthew found one of the world’s largest trilobites in the rocks of Saint John.
Stonehammer park is about geology, but it is also about people, society and culture. Our lives are shaped by geology. Where we settle, the landscape, the crops we grow, natural hazards, water resources, climate, what we mine, and the energy we use are all linked to geology.
Since the days of Gesner and the Steinhammer Club, the rock hammer (or stone hammer) is still the basic tool of a geologist.
The Stonehammer geological park includes almost 60 geosites from Lepreau Falls in the west to the Fundy Trail Parkway in the east, and north to Norton and Hampstead. Not all geosites are publicly accessible. Geosites include places of special scientific interest, public parks, streetscapes, museums and exhibitions. Explore our billion-year story with a guide or on your own. Here are some things you can do by foot, by bicycle, by boat or on a scenic drive.
1. Picnic at Lepreau Falls Provincial Park where the rocks are 300 million years old.
2. Visit the Brundage Point River Centre in Grand Bay - Westfield to learn about the St. John River.
3. Paddle a kayak with GoFundy Events at Dominion Park to see a 19th century lime-kiln quarry. $
4. Visit the Irving Nature Park, explore the ice age and hike the volcanic rocks.
5. Tour the Reversing Rapids gorge, carved by the ice age. Experience the Fundy Tides on the Reversing Falls Jet Boat Rides. $
6. Walk the Harbour Passage Trail, explore the Reversing Rapids where ancient continents collided and ‘touch’ two continents.
7. Explore the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ on the Fort Howe-Somerset Street Geology self-guided walk.
8. Visit ‘Our Changing Earth’ at the New Brunswick Museum. Discover our fossil stories. $
9. Tour geology and building stones in historic Uptown Saint John, experience the city ‘Rebuilt in Stone’.
10. Visit scenic Rockwood Park on your own or with Daytripping Outdoor Adventure. Go geocaching for rock outcrops, hiking, mountain-biking, rock climbing, swimming, or relax lakeside at the Lily Lake Pavilion. $
11. Find Tucker Park, hidden along the Kennebecasis River and relax on Devonian rocks.
12. Visit the Hampton Lighthouse River Centre on the Kennebecasis River. Canoe, kayak or take a boat ride to explore the river floodplain.
13. Stop at St. Martin’s, take a walk on the beach and visit the famous sea caves.
14. Experience the Fundy Trail Parkway along magnificent shoreline of the Bay of Fundy. $
15. Walk the Moosehorn Creek trail in Norton, visit the covered bridge crossing this historic Carboniferous fossil site.