Eocene Fossil Plant Beds (nr. Oliver, BC)

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These rocks are exposed along the side of the road north of Oliver, BC, a short distance away from the Dominion Astronomical Observatory.

The rocks show a series of events that occurred about 50 million years ago, where rivers and swamps prevailed in a sub-tropical environment. Thinner seams of darker muds were deposited in quiet bodies of slow moving or standing water (such as ponds or oxbow lakes). This water became stagnant, and so anything that fell into it (such as plants) did not decompose, eventually becoming the fossils we see here today. Periodically, the rivers would shift their course and deposit thicker bands of sands (the pale layers) that also have fossils, but mainly the remains of larger pieces of material such as branches. In one section (not shown here), there is an entire tree trunk preserved in the bottom of one of the sand layers.

This cycle repeated over and over, eventually building the layers we see today. These layers (‘stratigraphy’) would have been laid flat originally, but as the Coastal Mountains were being built, these layers were uplifted and tilted into the orientation we see today.

Cautions: This site is on an active road with several turns and as such traffic may be blind to you. Several of the sections include overhanging and loose material, so do not stand under these or in places they could roll to. The area is also prime forest fire territory, so be sure not to accidentally start fires and always carry water to extinguish sparks.


Fossil Metasequoia leaves and branches in a block of mudstone from the section. Hammer for scale.

Large fossilized tree trunk preserved on underside of a sand layer, possibly washed out by the migrating river channels. You can see the trunk flaring out at the base into the root system. Length of the trunk is approximately 180cm.

A selection of smaller plant fragments that can easily be found in pieces of fallen material at the base of the section.

Sandy layers do not preserve the fine leaves as well as the muds as the energy in the depositional environment tears them apart. Here we see a range of branches and other larger plant fragments in a sandy layer. This image represents a block 80cm across.

The section also hosts a Canadian Geodetic Survey marker. These are points all across Canada that mark specific coordinates in order to maintain a geographic network.