Looking for a great family vacation this summer? If you happen to be in BC's glorious interior, stop by and visit Cache Creek, the gateway to B.C.'s Cariboo Country. They boast cowboys aplenty, horses and, as it happens, some great fossil localities.
Some of the finest fossil fish, insects and plants remains can be found at McAbee, near Cache Creek. While the site is now an arid hillside topped with finger-like hoodoos, some 51 million years ago it was a flourishing lake. As fish and other inhabitants died, their remains settled to the bottom and were preserved in the fine-grained clay, ash and silt that would one day become shale. McAbee, named for the nearby village of McAbee on the Thompson River, is one of the richest and most accessible Eocene deposits in North America.
The Eocene (55.8-33.9 million years ago) was marked by significant global warming, which peaked about 50 million years ago, and an explosion of plant and animal species that can be traced directly to many of those that inhabit the Earth today. The site is open from May to October annually; in the shoulder seasons, four-hour tours can be pre-booked; during July and August drop-in visitors are greeted by guides, who provide information, rock hammers and bags.
One of the more coveted fossils to be found here is the fresh water fish, Eohiodon rosei. It can often be found complete with much of its finer detail preserved. As well as plentiful fossils, the site also affords a magnificent view of the Thompson River and Valley. You can try your luck splitting fresh slabs of shale or searching for missed treasures in the plentiful float. This is a good family trip as very little hiking is involved and the collecting is well off the road.
McAbee is located 65 km west of Kamloops and just 13.6 km east of Cache Creek, along Highway 97. Look for a gravel or dirt road that leads to a rusted gate on the left (north) side of the highway as you drive out of town.
The site is easy to pick out as are several large hoodoos (large, finger-like projections) on the top of the hill and you should see a group of cars parked about 400 m off the road. If you reach the juniper beach campground you have gone too far. Once you pull off Highway 97, you'll be able to park within 50-metres of the fossil rich shale exposures.
You'll feel a rush of excitement as you scramble up the talus slop to the 300-metre shale outcropping and begin to find magnificently preserved plants, insects, flowers and feathers in the loose shale.