Wednesday, 6 July 2022


Heidi Henderson with Daniel & Charles Helm, Tumbler Ridge
In 2000, Mark Turner and Daniel Helm were tubing down the rapids of Flatbed Creek just below Tumbler Ridge.

As they walked up the shoreline excitement began to build as they quickly recognized a series of regular depressions as dinosaur footprints.

Their discovery spurred an infusion of tourism and research in the area and the birth of the Peace Region Palaeontology Society and Dinosaur Centre. The Hudson's Hope Museum has an extensive collection of terrestrial and marine fossils from the area. They feature ichthyosaurs and hadrosaur tracks along with some terrestrial goodies.

The tracks the boys found were identified the following year by Rich McCrae as those of a large quadrupedal dinosaur, Tetrapodosaurus borealis, an ichnotaxon liked to ankylosaurs.

Closer study and excavation of the area yielded a 25 cm dinosaur bone thus doubling the number of dinosaur bones known from British Columbia at the time. The dinosaur finds near Tumbler Ridge are significant. Several thousand bone fragments have been collected, recorded and now reside within the PRPRC collections, making for one of the most complete assemblages for dinosaur material from this age. Betsy Nicholls wrote up an ichthyosaur from the Upper Triassic Pardonet Formation, Shonisaurus sikanniensis. This big fellow is estimated to have grown to 21 metres (69 FT) in length, making him one of the largest marine reptile on record.

The true reveal for the paleontological significance is still to come. There are Triassic marine outcrops in northern British Columbia that extend from Wapiti Lake to the Yukon border. I'm excited for the future of palaeontology in the region as more of these fruitful outcrops are discovered, collected and studied.

This find might never have happened or been hugely delayed if not for the keen eyes of two young boys. All this from a days tubing on the river. I think of them and their excitement of a dinosaur find, then of the 1988 find of the elasmosaur by Mike Trask and his daughter on the Puntledge River — and now a newly discovered plesiosaur by Pat Trask along the Trent River. There is so much out there to explore, to discover and all of it is possible for those who are curious and explore this beautiful world.