McAbee Fossil Beds Heritage Site

The McAbee fossil beds received official heritage designation on July 19, 2012. The site is closed to assess the heritage values and put interpretive components in place.

Last updated: August 11, 2021

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About the McAbee fossil site

The McAbee fossil site lies north of Highway 1/97 east of Cache Creek and west of Kamloops. The McAbee fossil beds were deposited in a lake during the Eocene Epoch, 53 million years ago.

The site is the most diverse in Canada with exceptionally preserved insect and plant fossils, abundant fish fossils as well as bird, spider and crayfish fossils. The fossil site is world class for its spectacular fossil record of Eocene biodiversity and ecosystems during a phase of much warmer global climate.

In 2007, the Province hired a paleontology expert, Dr. Mark Wilson, to assess the significance of the McAbee fossil beds. The assessment responded to concerns from paleontologists that scientifically important fossils, and critical scientific information was being lost as a result of active mineral claims in the area.

The assessment report (PDF, 3.3MB) is based on a literature review, information from experts and a field inspection. The report concludes that the McAbee site is one of two or three most significant sites in B.C. with Eocene fossils and the site has high species diversity, fossil abundance, excellent preservation and recognizable fossils.

To help ensure that significant fossils are available for research and to the people of B.C., the Province reached a voluntary agreement in 2008 with claim holders and other stakeholders that outlined a strategy for the preservation of significant fossils at the site. 

A provincially-funded geological and paleontological survey (PDF, 7.4 MB) of the McAbee fossil beds in 2009 presented new scientific information on the importance of the site. Based on the additional findings, government determined that the site warranted heritage designation to prevent further scientific loss of specimens through commercial extraction practices.

Heritage site designation

The McAbee fossil beds received official heritage designation on July 19, 2012.

The designation provides for the protection and management of the fossil resource and other heritage values at the site.

Heritage designation ensures the heritage values are managed to provide research, educational and recreational opportunities. The designation prevents damage to the fossil beds by restricting certain activities and authorizing others through permits. The heritage site includes the known extent of the fossil beds and captures key ecological and landform features and deposits of the Eocene volcanic complex of interior B.C., totalling 376 ha.

For more details, see the Statement of Significance (PDF, 292KB) for the site, developed during a stakeholders’ workshop. 

Site access

Public access is an important component of McAbee’s future. The site represents the connection of the people to the landscape and its features and is significant for its connections to oral history and sacred uses.

The vision of the heritage site (PDF, 1.2MB) is to serve as a world class site with an interpretive and research centre that inspire exploration of the role of fossils in our lives in a natural and cultural setting.

Development of the site will support local communities and Indigenous Tourism, creating a destination where visitors can learn about natural and human history and stewardship. The site’s values are scientific, educational, economic, and spiritual, its cultural importance embedded in the earth. The goal is to conserve McAbee’s heritage values while sharing the site with visitors of all ages and origins.

The site will connect visitors to these values:

  • Appreciate the protection and preservation of natural fossil heritage, cultural setting and diverse ecosystems and landforms
  • Inspire curiosity of continued scientific discovery and knowledge generated
  • Engage in exceptional and immersive educational opportunities to encourage responsible stewardship of heritage resources
  • Foster respect for the unique characteristics and significance of the site

Temporary closure

The site remains closed for review of site safety, archaeological and paleontological assessments, and planning of an interpretive trail system.

No permits will be issued for fossil collection or extraction until site safety and planning work has been completed.