The Noel Shore Tidal Flats

Nova Scotia is part of the Appalachian physiographic region. Burntcoat Head is located in the Tidal Bay District, which is one of the two parts of the Triassic Lowlands Region. The geology of Minas Basin and Cobequid Bay is interesting. Both were carved out by rivers that eroded eastwards from the Bay of Fundy, cutting the channel along the Minas Passage Fault between Cape Split and Cape Sharp.

Around Cobiquid Bay, the Triassic red beds are nearly horizontal and form a low area with gentle undulations. The soft, red sandstone fringing the Bay is surrounded by the slightly elevated and more resistant carboniferous rocks of the Windsor Lowlands Till Plain.


The Shubenacadie River, which flows into Cobequid Bay, has a drowned estuary. As the sea level continues to rise, the soft coastal red beds erode, adding enormous volumes of sediment to the waters of the Bay. The sediment is washed up and down the river with the tide and some is deposited as sand bars. Rapid coastal erosion has created a wave-cut platform (the narrow, flat area often found at the base of a sea cliff) 100-300 metres wide bordering the shore.

Hantsport clay loam occurs along the narrow strip on the south shore of Minas Basin. Large areas of Acadia soil formed on the dykelands at the head of Cobequid Bay.

Dicynodont Illustration Burntcoat Head Park

Triassic Burntcoat

Age of the Rocks: Late Triassic Period, the first and oldest period of the Mezozoic "Dinosaur Era", approximately 220 million years ago.

The Triassic World: The continents were assembled into the "supercontinent" that geoscientists call Pangea (Greek for "One Earth"). Nova Scotia lay in the tropics just north of the equator in a deep rift valley not unlike the one found today in East Africa.

Rocks and Fossils

The rocks of the Park are sedimentary, formed from sand, pebbles, and mud carried by twisting, braided channels that flowed through the rift valley. Bones of animals that roamed the rift valley, buried in the mud or swept along the rivers, are sometimes found in the rocks of Burntcoat Head.

Fossils are evidence of ancient life. Burntcoat Head Park has yielded skeletons of creatures that lived and competed with the early dinosaurs. These include the skull of a strange, beaked archosaur called Teraterpeton and the backbone of a huge, lumbering dicynodont. These bizarre reptiles became extinct at the end of the Triassic Period, allowing the dinosaurs to take over as rulers of the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods before they too, met the same fate.

Map of fossil discoveries Burntcoat Head Park dicynodont
Map of Burntcoat Head Park showing two significant fossil discoveries.