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Month: October 2020

Oct. 25 Field Trip

When: Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

Where: Mount Tzouhalem 

Directions: Meet at Helmcken Park & Ride at 9 am. Carpooling optional/personal decision; masks must be worn if/while carpooling, social distancing mandatory throughout the field trip.

What will I be collecting? East of Duncan lies Mount Tzouhalem, a high point of land that overlooks Cowichan Bay. Much of the mountain is forested, and some of it is protected by an ecological reserve, but the northern side of the mountain has been subdivided and has many residential properties. At the top of the mountain an enormous area was cleared and landscaped to become a golf course, but the failure of the development means that the part of the hill is now being turned into housing as well. Fossils at this locality are characteristic of the older part of the Haslam Formation, including the typical ammonites heteromorphs (Haeuriceras, Eupachydiscus, and the heteromorphs Eubostrychoceras and Glyptoxoceras), and a wide variety of clams and snails. Along with the more standard fare, the exposures here have yielded some rarities, such as the crinoid Uintacrinus and the spiny ammonite Urakawites, which are unknown from most other Haslam localities. Preservation of shell is typically black in colour.

What should I expect? Access to Mount Tzouhalem is good, we can drive to within a few minutes’ walk of the best exposures, but because it is a hillside you should expect to ascend and descend slopes with some significant elevation gain. We will be targeting large piles of boulders created on a few locations on the hillside (because this tends to be where erosion takes place), so you could also be walking on slightly uneven footing. Because there is just so much of the mountain to explore, everyone should be able to find an area to suit them, and for this reason I can recommend Mount Tzouhalem to collectors of all ages and activity levels. Fossils are found in the rock and concretions, so a good hammer or sledge, chisel, and protective eyewear are required. Be aware that this is the site of a former excavation, so you should expect to be walking on rocks and boulders that can be slippery and treacherous.

Why should I come on this field trip? Fossils are not especially common on Mount Tzouhalem, either in the rock or in concretions, but because there is just so much rock exposed here we usually have some finds. The VicPS has been collecting on Mount Tzouhalem for several years, and with excavations no longer occurring there we may not find as much fresh rock as we used to, but there are still many fossils to be found. The diversity of the Cretaceous fauna at this locality, the chance to find a rare or unusual fossil, and the beautiful views of the Cowichan Valley always make Mount Tzouhalem an attractive choice for fall and winter collecting.

Contact: RSVP Jerri Wilkins via the VicPS Facebook page or via email.

Residential building activities present opportunities at Mount Tzouhalem in 2017. Image courtesy Jerri Wilkins.