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Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
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The Burgess Shale

In 1909, Charles Walcott unearthed a geological find of great significance while hiking the Burgess Pass trail above Emerald Lake. Splitting open a slab of layered shale, he exposed incredibly detailed fossils of prehistoric marine life. His find turned out to be a unique window into the workings of the 505 million year old Cambrian ecosystem.

Well-preserved Soft Tissues
Fossils at the Burgess shale were observed to have incredibly well-preserved soft-body parts. Because delicate muscle and organ tissues are distinctly visible as a thin film in the carbon-heavy shale, soft-bodied organisms that would have otherwise remained unknown were fossilized. Researchers were given insight into the Cambrian food chain by determining the stomach contents of the organisms. The intricate balance of a diverse undersea ecosystem from a time that marked the origins of multi-cellular life is demonstrated by the quality and quantity of fossils extracted from the Walcott dig site. Evidence suggests that the aquatic community existed in shallow water along the edge of a large underwater cliff now referred to as the Cathedral Escarpment. Mudslides buried creatures at the bottom of the cliff, where the low oxygen levels ensured they would not be disturbed by predators and slowed their decomposition as the sedimentary rock formed over time.

Strange Creatures
Most numerous among the fossils found at the Burgess Shale is the Marrella (or lace crab, as Walcott called them). Also to be found are hard-shelled Trilobites, the stilt-walking Hallucigenia, early crabs, sponges, and many species that don't fit at all within the modern classification system. It is not possible to visit the Fossil Sites on your own and therefore there are many different guided hikes and tours operating out of Field, Yoho National Park that your Concierge would be happy to assist with arranging for you.

Hold a 505 million year old fossil in your hand. Explore the remains of an ancient sea in the sky with hands-on activities and storytelling. Book early as these popular hikes fill up fast and are limited to a maximum of 12 people per hike. Professional guided hikes to Burgess Shale locations are offered by both Parks Canada
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The Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation contract professional geoscientists, university graduate students and professors to conduct earth science educational guided hikes that will interpret the topics of geology, paleo-biology, climate science, bio-astro-physics and evolution during the hikes and that are developed for geoscience professionals, high school students, teachers, academics and the general public. The Foundation guides have been charged with the responsibility to provide all levels of understanding of these topics. These are Science-in-Action hikes that will pleasantly change your perception of the planet earth we live on forever.
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To book any of our activities please email our Concierge at or by calling +1 403 522 1601

For more information on the Burgess Shale please click here.