Parks Canada History
Canada's World Heritage Sites

Canada's World Heritage Sites

Globally, UNESCO's World Heritage Sites include places such as the Egyptian Pyramids, Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of China. There are 18 World Heritage sites located in Canada, Parks Canada is responsible, in whole or in part, for the conservation and protection of 12 of those sites. There are another six sites on Canada's Tentative List of World Heritage Sites. On behalf of Canada, Parks Canada is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in Canada.

More information on World Heritage Sites can be found in the following brochures.



All text and photos are copyrighted by Parks Canada and were extracted from Parks Canada's World Heritage Sites Website, or from several Backgrounders (dated 08-Aug-2016). Sites with a grey background are managed by Parks Canada.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Áísínai'pi National Historic Site
Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park

Tentative World Heritage List

Lying within the traditional territory of the Niitsítapi (Blackfoot: Kainai, Piikáni and Siksika), Áísínai'pi ("it is pictured/written") is a sacred place where geological formations house spirit beings, and more than 50 rock art sites record the "writings" of the spirits. Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park (Áísínai'pi) in the Milk River Valley is a spectacular pocket in the mixed grass prairie landscape sweeping through south-central Alberta to the powerful Kátoyissiksi (Sweetgrass Hills, Montana, USA). Defined by the valley's eroded ancient sandstone cliffs, it is characterized by dramatic views, eerie light and sounds, hoodoo formations, adjacent coulees and prairie habitats rich in mammal, bird and plant species. For at least 4 000 years, Aboriginal people have stopped here in the course of their seasonal round. The petroglyph and pictograph sites on the valley walls include several thousand motifs in hundreds of scenes, predominantly anthropomorphs, zoomorphs and material object motifs. Ceremonial and ritual figures, exploits of hunters and warriors, and diverse animals are depicted among the images. New motifs created after European contact in the early 18th century include guns, horses and dynamic human figures, the instruments of Aboriginal-White contact and cultural change. Burial places, vision quest locations and a medicine wheel on the rim of the valley also mark the spirituality of the landscape. Traditional knowledge describes the origins and history. A reconstructed Royal Canadian Mounted Police post sits on the site of the original post.

Note: These criteria were identified during the Tentative List process; the criteria used might change as the nomination is developed.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
Alberta and British Columbia
First inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1984 and expanded in 1990

Renowned for their scenic splendor, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are comprised of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho national parks and Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber provincial parks in British Columbia. Classic illustrations of glacial geological processes — including mountain peaks, icefields, remnant valley glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons and limestone caves — are found throughout the area. The Burgess Shale Cambrian and nearby Precambrian sites are renowned worldwide for their remains of soft-bodied marine animals.

Some of the best-known mountain scenery on Earth is concentrated in a set of seven parks in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Indeed, in much of the world, mention of Canada evokes images of snow-capped peaks and chateauesque hotels in parks named Banff or Jasper. More than nine million people annually visit the seven preserves along the Alberta-British Columbia border.

There are four national parks in the ensemble — Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay. They account for most of the World Heritage property's 23,600 square kilometres. Adjoining them are three British Columbia provincial parks — Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber. Banff, built around the Cave and Basin Hot Springs found by CPR workers building the transcontinental railway in the early 1880s, became Canada's first park preserve in 1885, and the birthplace of Canada's national park system.

In the following half-century, the park was expanded to encompass a wealth of natural wonders: jagged peaks and conifer-clad slopes, silt-laden glacial streams and turquoise lakes, the vast Columbia Icefield and the complex Castleguard Caves. The Burgess Shale, in Yoho, contains one of the world's most significant finds of soft-bodied, Middle Cambrian-age marine fossils, with about 150 species, including some bearing no resemblance to known animals.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 and expanded in 1992

Dinosaur Provincial Park in the heart of Alberta's Badlands contains some of the most important fossil specimens discovered from the "Age of Dinosaurs." The site is unmatched in terms of the number and variety of high quality dinosaur specimens, which date back 75-77 million years.

Seventy-five million years ago, what is now eastern Alberta was a low-lying coastal plain at the edge of a large shallow sea. The climate was subtropical, similar to northern Florida today. Countless creatures flourished there — fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, primitive mammals and about 35 species of dinosaur. When some of these animals died, they lay in river channels and mud flats so their bones were buried in new layers of sand and mud. Over time, a combination of pressure, lack of oxygen and deposition of minerals produced fossils — impressions of the bones, teeth and skin of those creatures that once roamed ancient Alberta. Over more time, new layers of sediments covered the fossils and preserved them.

And so it was until the end of the latest Ice Age, 13,000 years ago, a mere wink in geological time, when glacial ice scraped off the upper layers of rock. Huge volumes of meltwater carved deep into the soft sandstone and mudstone strata, exposing the fossil-bearing sediments and, in the process, creating the Red Deer River Valley. Its haunting hoodoos, isolated mesas and low-lying coulees are at the heart of Alberta's badlands and contain the greatest concentration of Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils yet found on Earth.

More than 300 first-quality dinosaur skeletons have been pulled from a 27-kilometre stretch along the Red Deer River since digging began there in the 1880s. And dozens of these now grace museum space in 30 cities around the world. Since 1985 the largest collection of treasures from the park has been housed in the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, in Drumheller, a two-hour drive northwest of the park.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Gros Morne National Park
Newfoundland and Labrador
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987

The magnificent Gros Morne National Park, on the west coast of the island of Newfoundland, is a rare example of the process of continental drift, where deep ocean crust and the rocks of the earth's mantle lie exposed. Gros Morne National Park presents the complete portrayal of the geological events that took place when the ancient continental margin of North America was modified by tectonic plate movement, as a large portion of oceanic crust and ocean floor sediments was relocated above sea level. The spellbinding scenery of Gros Morne National Park, complete with coastal lowland, alpine plateau, fjords, glacial valleys, sheer cliffs, waterfalls and many pristine lakes produces a landscape of high scenic value.

The scenery at Gros Morne ranks among the most spectacular in Eastern Canada: sharp ridges and huge cliffs, coastal bogs and highland tundra, dramatic ocean inlets and lakes. And yet it is not primarily this exceptional natural beauty that has earned the park a spot on the World Heritage List, but rather its remarkable geology.

The park is considered a textbook illustration of plate tectonics, the theory that suggests continent-sized plates of the Earth's crust have collided and separated repeatedly over geological time, opening and closing oceans between them.

Six hundred million years ago, Europe and North America were joined but were starting to pull apart. Magma from the lower crust welled up and filled the gap between them — the solidified magma is now visible in the cliffs of Gros Morne's Western Brook Pond. From 570 to 420 million years ago, there was an ocean between the two continents called the Iapetus Sea. Sedimentary strata in the park preserve fossils of almost every phylum known to exist during that time — a virtual catalogue of evolution. By 460 million years ago, North America and Europe were pressing together, raising the Appalachian Mountains and closing the Iapetus Sea. Some blocks of oceanic crust and mantle were transported west and raised to the surface of the earth. Eons later, glacial ice scoured the area, creating fiords and cutting transects of the mountains that reveal their geological past.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve
British Columbia
Tentative World Heritage List

The Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site covers about 15 percent of the Queen Charlotte Islands, an archipelago 80 km off the northwest coast of mainland British Columbia that separates Hecate Strait from the Pacific Ocean. The size of the terrestrial area, which consists of 138 islands, is 1,495 km, with a surrounding marine conservation area (proposed) of 3,400 km. The park reserve includes SGang Gwaay World Heritage Site, a 3 km island inscribed in 1981. Two other remarkable former Haida villages, Tanu and Skedans, are located within the park reserve. As well, more than 600 archaeological features in the park reserve give.evidence of Haida occupation and activities in the region. Traditional narratives, songs, places names and language relate the park reserve area intimately to Haida history and way of life. The rich and living culture of the Haida people permeates the area. The natural resources of the area, with their abundance of essential ingredients for sustenance and growth, are an integral part of Haida traditional culture, and life with the land and sea. Natural features of Gwaii Haanas range from the highly dissected San Christoval Mountains, which form the backbone of the area, to fiords, 40 freshwater lakes, old-growth temperate rainforests and a rich diversity and abundance of wildlife. The proposed marine conservation area lies along one section of the Queen Charlotte tectonic plate, and includes highly diverse living intertidal and sub-tidal marine communities. It is also strategically located along the Pacific flyway, hosting huge seabird breeding colonies as well as being an important migrant stopover. Marine mammals are also abundant, including sea lions, porpoises, killer whales and migrating grey whales.

Note: These criteria were identified during the Tentative List process; the criteria used might change as the nomination is developed.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981

The significance of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump lies in its cultural, archaeological, and scientific attributes. Using their excellent knowledge of bison behaviour for millennia, the Blackfoot killed their prey by chasing them over a precipice. Carcasses were later carved up in the camp below. The remains of marked trails and of an Indigenous camp can still be found. Huge burial mounds containing deep layers of bison bones below the cliff represent nearly 6000 years of use of the buffalo jump by Indigenous people of the Northern Plains. This site throws valuable light on the way of life and practices of traditional hunting cultures worldwide.

For thousands of years, the bison provided the Aboriginal peoples of North America's Great Plains with many of life's requirements - meat for food, hides for clothing and shelter, sinew, bone and horn for tools, and dung for fires. The principal means of killing large numbers of bison was the buffalo jump, where herds were stampeded over cliffs and butchered at the bottom. Buffalo jumps were common on the northern Plains. But the biggest, oldest and best-preserved buffalo jump in North America is the Head-Smashed-In (or estipah-skikikini-kots in Blackfoot) Buffalo Jump in the Porcupine Hills of southwestern Alberta. Countless thousands of bison were herded over the edge of the 10- to 18-metre-high cliffs, beginning perhaps 5,700 years ago and continuing until the middle of the 19th century. At the base of the cliff today are skeletal remains, in some places 11 metres deep. Close by is the site of the butchering camp, a kilometre-wide expanse pocked with the remnants of meat caches and cooking pits, and itself underlain with up to a metre of butchered bison bones. The area on top of the cliff was (and still is) a wide reach of prime grazing range. A system of more than 500 stone cairns, at which people built fires or waved blankets, begins 10 kilometres west of the cliff. The cairns helped direct the bison into drive lanes approaching the precipice.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Historic District of Old Québec
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1985

Founded in the 17th century, the city of Québec illustrates one of the major stages in the European settlement of the Americas. It was the capital of New France and, after 1760, of the new British colony.

The Historic District of Old Québec is made up of two parts: the Upper Town, defended by a fortified citadel and ramparts, together with numerous bastions, gates and other defensive works; and the Lower Town, which developed around the Place Royale and the harbour. A well-preserved integrated urban ensemble, the historic district is a remarkable example of a fortified city of the colonial era, and unique north of Mexico.

Close to half the buildings in the Historic District of Old Québec were built before 1850. Although the city itself has grown into a modern metropolis of some 600,000 people, the historic district, covering 135 hectares (about five percent of the city total) remains among the most coherent such areas in North America. Moreover, Québec is unique among cities on the continent in having retained almost all its fortifications, and la vieille capitale may claim for itself the honour of being the only walled city in North America.

Champlain built his original habitation on the shore of the St. Lawrence River, near the site of the former Iroquois village of Stadacona, at the foot of a great promontory called Cap Diamant. Settlement grew first along the river, and later, following the lead of military and religious institutions, on the promontory itself. The river bank, or Lower Town, remained residential and commercial, and Upper Town became the seat of administration and religion.

In the 1820s, when Québec was Canada's leading seaport, the British army built a substantial citadel atop Cap Diamant and improved the wall around Upper Town. In the 1870s, Governor General Lord Dufferin, in an early example of urban heritage conservation, persuaded the city not to demolish the fortifications, by then strategically useless, thus defining the historic character — and tourist potential — of Old Québec.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Ivvavik National Park
Vuntut National Park
Herschel Island (Qikiqtaruk) Territorial Park

Tentative World Heritage List

Together, Ivvavik National Park of Canada, Vuntut National Park of Canada, and Herschel Island (Qikiqtaruk) Territorial Park comprise 15 500 km2 of wilderness on the Yukon coastal plain, Richardson Mountains, a portion of the Old Crow Flats wetlands and an arctic island in the Beaufort Sea. Together, these parks comprise a land rich in wildlife, in variety of landscape and in vegetation. This area was not glaciated, and forms part of the Beringia corridor as evidenced in its rich assemblage of archeological and palaeontological deposits. Major rivers flow through the coastal plain, cutting spectacular canyons on their way to the Beaufort Sea. Part of the area, the Old Crow Flats, is a Ramsar site internationally recognized for breeding and migratory water howl. Three species of bear are found in parts of the area, along with a host of other wildlife, including Dall sheep and moose. The area supports close to 10 percent of the world's caribou population, with the Porcupine Herd numbering close to 123 000 animals. A portion of the calving grounds for the herd is located in Ivvavik National Park of Canada. This is the land of the Inuvialuit and Vuntut Gwitchin, who have hunted, fished and traded in the region for thousands of years. The cultural landscape's rich and complex human history is expressed through archaeological evidence and oral history. A key area to the peopling of North America, it illustrates successive occupations over thousands of years of adaptation to evolving climatic episodes. During preparation of nomination documentation, careful consideration will be given to final proposed boundaries to include all of parts of nearby protected areas, for example Fishing Branch Ni'iinlii'njik Territorial Park (7 000 km2), which is located south of Vuntut National Park of Canada.

Note: These criteria were identified during the Tentative List process; the criteria used might change as the nomination is developed.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Joggins Fossil Cliffs
Nova Scotia
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008

The Joggins Fossil Cliffs on Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy are the world reference site for fossils of the Pennsylvanian (or Carboniferous) period. Their complete and accessible fossil-bearing rock exposures tell the stories of some of the earliest animals on earth. The origin of amniotes, the first vertebrates to achieve the capacity to reproduce on land, can be found at Joggins.

Approximately 300 million years ago, what is now the eastern shore of Chignecto Bay, on the northern arm of the Bay of Fundy, was a tropical wetland forest located near the equator. Known as the "Coal Age Galapagos," the Joggins Fossil Cliffs provide an outstanding example of the evolution of life on Earth in the Pennsylvanian Period (the "Coal Age").

The Joggins Fossil Cliffs reveal the most complete record in the world of terrestrial life in the Pennsylvanian "Coal Age" of Earth history. The site includes the world's most important fossil record of the two iconic elements of the "Coal Age": terrestrial tetrapods, including the first reptiles and amniotes; and the "coal swamp" forests in which they lived. The origin of amniotes, the first vertebrates to achieve the capacity to reproduce on land, was one of the most significant events in the history of life on Earth, and this evolutionary milestone is first recorded with certainty in the fossils at Joggins. The cliffs, continually exposed by the world's highest tides, and the approximately 200 fossilized species of animals and plants found there have long been and continue to be a cornerstone in the development of our understanding of the evolution of life and Earth's history.

Rich coal deposits drew miners to Joggins from the 17th century on. The Joggins site has been studied by geologists for well over 150 years and discoveries made here have helped shape our understanding of evolution and geology. Sir Charles Lyell, known as the father of modern geology, explored the cliffs at Joggins in 1842 and 1852 with Nova Scotia-born Sir William Dawson, later principal of McGill University. Through them, Joggins found its way into Darwin's Origin of Species. Abraham Gesner, also Nova Scotia-born, the inventor of coal oil (or kerosene), and Sir William Logan, who established the Geological Survey of Canada, scrutinized the Joggins cliffs as well.

Today the Joggins Fossil Centre, with interpretation of the finest collection of carboniferous fossil specimens in the world and how they shaped our ideas of Earth history and evolution, occupies the site of the old Joggins No. 7 Mine. The cliffs of Joggins are accessible to the public and guided tours of the site are provided.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Kluane National Park
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (U.S.)
Glacier Bay National Park (U.S.)
Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park

Yukon, British Columbia and Alaska
First inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979, then expanded in 1992 and 1994

The Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek national and provincial parks along the boundary of Canada and the United States of America contain the largest non-polar icefield in the world and examples of some of the world's longest and most spectacular glaciers.

Characterized by high mountains, icefields and glaciers, the area has a high biodiversity with plant and animal communities ranging from marine, coastal forest, montane, sub-alpine and alpine tundra, all in various successional stages. The Tatshenshini and Alsek river valleys allow ice-free linkages from coast to interior for plant and animal migration. The parks demonstrate some of the best examples of glaciation and modification of landscape by glacial action in a region still tectonically active, spectacularly beautiful, and where natural processes prevail.

An empire of mountains and ice. Here, in a vast international preserve, are most of the tallest peaks in North America and the largest icefields outside the polar caps. Half the land mass is permanently draped in snow and ice — the other half fosters forests and tundra and stable populations of eagles, grizzlies and other species often at risk elsewhere.

Kluane National Park and Reserve in the Yukon and British Columbia's Tatshenshini-Alsek Park (which is managed in co-operation with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations) are the Canadian components of a vast, unbroken ecological unit that covers 97,000 square kilometres and is untouched but for a historic Aboriginal presence. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Glacier Bay National Park, both in Alaska, complete the first bi-national entry on the World Heritage List.

The St. Elias Mountains extend over most of the preserve area, hosting the largest group of great peaks on the continent, including massive 5,959-metre Mount Logan, the highest mountain in Canada. Moist air blown in from the Pacific Ocean makes for tremendous snows in the area, creating a massive icefield and producing hundreds of glaciers; among them some of the world's largest and fastest-moving. Three dozen major rivers drain the region. Carrying immense loads of silt and rock, they are continually reshaping the landscape.

Vegetation ranges from coastal and valley forests to alpine tundra, nurturing, among other fauna, the largest concentration of Dall sheep in the world.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Landscape of Grand Pré
Nova Scotia
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2012

The Landscape of Grand Pré is a dynamic agricultural landscape bordering on the Bay of Fundy, home of the world's highest tides. The area's cultural landscape bears testimony to the inventive use of dykes and aboiteaux to develop farmland, and to its community-based management system, established by the Acadians and later used by the Planters and their modern-day successors. Inhabited for thousands of years by the Mi'kmaq, the area is a symbolic landscape for Acadians, reflecting their 17th and 18th century history and their deportation. Grand-Pré National Historic Site, owned and managed by Parks Canada, is a key component of the World Heritage Site and encompasses slightly under two percent of the Landscape of Grand Pré. It was an important Acadian settlement from 1682 to 1755, and today is a place where the stories of the Deportation of the Acadians and their accomplishments are told, and to which Acadians continue to have a strong attachment.

The Landscape of Grand Pr tells a remarkable story about human interaction with the environment and about how the connection between people and place can define a collective identity.

Situated on Nova Scotia's southern Minas Basin, an inlet of the Bay Fundy, the Landscape of Grand Pré is subjected to the most extreme tides in the world; the tidal range averages 11.6 metres. It was under these conditions three centuries ago that French (Acadian) settlers set about transforming the harsh coastal environment of salt marsh into fertile farmland. The agricultural landscape they claimed from the sea is considered an exceptional example of adaptation by European settlers to the conditions of the North American Atlantic coast.

Starting in the late 17th century — an era which predates the introduction of engineered drainage systems — the Acadian settlers applied an inventive and ingenious system of earthen dykes, ditches and aboiteaux, or wooden sluices, to hold back the formidable tides. They also began a tradition of collective management that was community-based. Today, the agricultural landscape is still protected and drained by the same system, still exhibits distinctive field patterns, and is still managed through the same community approach. Enduring as one of the most intact agricultural polders in the world, it is a testimony to the original Acadian settlers as well as to the New England Planters and the present day farmers who subsequently further developed and maintained the system.

As an important Acadian settlement from 1682 to 1755, Grand Pr is not only directly associated with the emergence of their new identity in their new land, but also with their tragic, forced removal from it. The Deportation of Acadians, known as the Grand Dérangement, started in 1755. As their single most important lieu de mémoire, the Landscape of Grand Pré is an evocative example of a homeland symbolically and peacefully reclaimed by a diaspora that has triumphed over hardships. Here, Acadians celebrate their common heritage and reaffirm their collective identity. They are proud to share the site with the world as a symbol of perseverance and hope.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
Newfoundland and Labrador
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978

This archaeological site at the northern tip of Newfoundland contains the excavated remains of an 11th-century Viking settlement consisting of timber-framed peat-turf buildings (houses, workshops, etc.). These are similar to those found in Norse Greenland and Iceland at the same period. The site is thus unique evidence of the earliest known European presence on the American continent. Some buildings have been reconstructed and interpreters recount tales from the past.

The remains of the 1,000-year-old Viking colony at L'Anse aux Meadows mark the site of the First known European settlement in North America. It was here that the Vikings built three timber-and-sod longhouses and five smaller buildings — and here that the first iron working in the New World began.

Sailors aboard an Icelandic trading ship blown off course en route to Greenland around 985 were the first to report new lands to the west. Fifteen years later, Leif Eiriksson wintered at a settlement called Straumfiord - also known as Leif's Camp - on a grassy terrace near present L'Anse aux Meadows. In the years following, members of his family and a group of colonists visited the camp and ventured possibly as far southwest as New Brunswick. But conflict with Aboriginal people apparently obliged them to withdraw from the area and they returned to Greenland within a decade.

In 1960, the Norwegian team of Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad, following Viking sagas recorded in medieval Icelandic manuscripts, located the ruins of Straumfiord. Excavation by the Ingstads and, later, by Parks Canada, unearthed the remains of eight buildings and hundreds of Viking artefacts, mostly of wood but also of iron, stone, bronze and bone. Norse contacts with the New World continued sporadically until at least the mid-14th century, and knowledge of the new lands likely remained among European sailors, facilitating the reopening of the Atlantic sea lanes in the 1490s.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Miguasha National Park
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1999

The palaeontological site of Miguasha National Park, on the southern coast of the Gaspé Peninsula in the province of Quebec, is considered to be the world's most outstanding illustration of the Devonian Period known as the "Age of Fishes." Dating from 370 million years ago, the Miguasha formation contains five of the six fossil fish groups associated with this period. Its significance stems from the presence of the highest number and best-preserved fossil specimens of the lobe-finned fishes that gave rise to the first four-legged, air-breathing terrestrial vertebrates. For more than a century, the flora and fauna fossils of Miguasha have been recognized as unique and numerous scientists and collectors from Europe and America have visited the site.

Some 370 million years ago, what is today the austere coast of the Gasp Peninsula was a tropical estuary. The craggy peaks of the Appalachians lined the horizon. Primitive trees, scorpions and spiders covered the land. In the warm tidal waters, an astonishing variety of fish thrived. Some were spiny, some armour-plated. Others had lungs and pairs of lobe-like fins that enabled them to crawl across mud flats- and enact one of the major steps in evolution, when fish evolved into four-limbed animals.

We know this today because a two-million-year snapshot of life at the time is preserved in the remarkably rich fossil beds of the Escuminac Formation, which is exposed in a seaside cliff at Miguasha, on the south shore of the Gasp facing Baie des Chaleurs. There are some 60 such Devonian period fossil sites around the world. But none matches Miguasha in abundance of specimens, quality of fossil preservation and representation of evolutionary events for vertebrates. It is the only Devonian site on the World Heritage List.

There is sufficient biodiversity at Miguasha — scores of species of vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, algae and micro-organisms — for scientists to have constructed an almost complete picture of Devonian life. But it is the 21 species of fish fossils that made Miguasha famous, none more so than Eusthenopteron foordi, the "Prince of Miguasha," whose limb-like fins and two-way gills-and-lungs respiratory system gave rise to the modern conception of evolution from fish to four-limbed, land-dwelling vertebrates, or tetrapods.

The Miguasha fossil beds were discovered in 1842. Starting in the 1880s, thousands of fossil specimens were collected and shipped to museums and universities around the world, helping to confirm the site's scientific importance.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Mistaken Point
Newfoundland and Labrador
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2016

Mistaken Point is an Ediacaran fossil site located on the southern tip of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula. The fossils found at Mistaken Point date to the Middle Ediacaran Period (580 to 560 million years ago) and represent the first appearance in the fossil record of large, complex, multicellular, animal-like organisms — i.e. "when life got big" — a pivotal event in the evolution of life on Earth.

Mistaken Point is a globally significant fossil site on the southeastern tip of the island of Newfoundland. The World Heritage site is almost entirely located within Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, where more than 10,000 fossil impressions, ranging from a few centimetres to nearly 2 metres in length, are readily accessible for scientific study and supervised viewing by visitors to the scenic, rugged Atlantic coastline.

The fossils at Mistaken Point illustrate a critical time in the history of life: the first appearance of large, biologically complex organisms, including the first ancestral animals. These soft-bodied creatures lived during the middle Ediacaran Period (580 to 560 million years ago) and inhabited the deep sea floor of an ancient ocean where they were buried and preserved in exceptional detail by influxes of volcanic ash. The animals died where they lived, and after being hidden for hundreds of millions of years, were gradually exposed by the forces of modern erosion revealing more than 100 fossil sea-floor surfaces, ranging from small beds with single fossils to tennis-court-sized surfaces adorned with up to 4,500 megafossils.

The exquisitely preserved fossils at Mistaken Point make up the most abundant and diverse assemblage of large Ediacaran fossils of deep marine origin known anywhere in the world and provide a detailed chronology for 20 million years in the early evolution of complex life.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Nahanni National Park Reserve
Northwest Territories
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978

Nahanni National Park Reserve is an undisturbed natural area of deep river canyons cutting through mountain ranges, with huge waterfalls, hotsprings and complex cave systems. Within the park are examples of almost every distinct category of river or stream that is known, along with one of North America's largest waterfalls, Virginia Falls, which is twice the height of Niagara Falls.

The Flat and South Nahanni rivers are older than the mountains they dissect and have produced the finest examples of river canyons in the world with their spectacular granitic peaks. Animals of the boreal forest, including wolves, grizzly bears and caribou, live throughout the park.

Prospectors started searching the South Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories for gold a century ago. They found little. But they did encounter vast reaches of the most varied and spectacular environment imaginable - towering mountains and tundra plains, wetlands and sand dunes, badlands and luxuriant forests, grizzly bears and trumpeter swans. There are steaming hot springs and complexes of caves, some lined with ice crystals, others with colourful stalagmites and stalactites.

And everywhere rivulets and streams and rushing rivers, all feeding the restless, prodigious South Nahanni, alive with frenzied rapids and whirlpools, with meanders and braids, crashing over the cataract of Virginia Falls, twice the height of Niagara Falls, cutting for kilometres through canyons 1,000 metres deep, then bending through a tortuous constriction called Hell's Gate.

Today, remarkably, nothing has changed. The South Nahanni still swirls and crashes, the hot springs steam, the grizzlies prowl. This is a wilderness largely unmodified by humans. Indeed, running water remains the major agent of change. Rivers cut canyons through the Mackenzie Mountains and spread alluvial fans. And since the region escaped glaciation during the last Ice Age, canyon walls remain sharp and deep, neither widened nor smoothed by grinding ice.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Old Town Lunenburg
Nova Scotia
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1995

Old Town Lunenburg is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. Established in 1753, it has retained its original layout and overall appearance, based on a rectangular grid pattern drawn up in the home country. The inhabitants have safeguarded the town's identity throughout the centuries by preserving many of its houses and public buildings, some of which date from the 18th century. Their spirit is captured in the wooden architecture, built in a distinctive tradition that evokes the town's European roots and shipbuilding heritage.

Old Town Lunenburg, where all streets are straight and all corners square, is the best surviving example of a British colonial policy of creating new settlements by imposing a pre-designed "model town" plan on whatever tract of wilderness it was the King's pleasure to colonize. At least 21 North American settlements, from Cornwall and Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario to Savannah, Georgia, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, benefited from this policy. But none has survived in such pristine condition as the town of Lunenburg on the south coast Nova Scotia.

The settlement was created in June 1753 as a home for 1,453 mostly German-speaking Protestant German, Swiss and Montbéliardian French colonists. The townsite, true to then-current convention, consisted of seven north-south streets, 48 feet wide (with the exception of King Street, which is 80 feet), intersected at right angles by nine east-west streets, each 40 feet wide, creating blocks that were further divided into 14 lots of 40 by 60 feet each. Each family received one town lot. The London-based Board of Trade and Plantations developed the plans without regard to local topography, which is why Lunenburg's streets are never less than straight but sometimes dizzyingly steep.

There are some 400 major buildings within the old town, 70 percent of them from the 18th and 19th centuries, almost all of them wood, and many colourfully painted.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Pimachiowin Aki
Manitoba and Ontario
Tentative World Heritage List

Formerly known as: Atikaki/Woodland Caribou/Accord First Nations

First Nations in Manitoba and Ontario with the support of both provincial governments have proposed creating an internationally recognized network of protected areas and managed landscapes on their ancestral lands and to seek UNESCO designation of the area as a World Heritage Site. Set in the boreal shield, the project is known as Pimachiowin Aki. Encompassing 33,400 km of boreal forest, the area includes First Nations' traditional lands and contiguous protected areas on both sides of the provincial border. The majority of the area is comprised of the First Nations' traditional lands. The parklands include Atikaki Park in Manitoba and Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and the Eagle — Snowshoe Conservation Reserve in Ontario. These parks and protected lands represent an area of natural and wilderness values covering over 8,500 km. The First Nations' traditional lands and provincially designated lands together form part of the continuous coniferous boreal forest that extends across northern Canada.

The forest is dominated by stands of black spruce and jack pine, with a shrub layer of ericaceous shrubs, mosses and lichens. Secondary tree species include aspen, white birch, white spruce and balsam fir, with some species from the prairies and the eastern deciduous regions. Four major rivers carve through the area, with associated cliffs, waterfalls and rapids. One of these rivers, the Bloodvein, has been recognized and designated as a Canadian Heritage River. Also found are typical landforms of the shield region, including glacial striae, till deposits and evidence of glacial Lake Aggasiz. The area provides an essential habitat for a segment of the threatened woodland caribou, and also protects habitat for the chestnut lamprey, a species of special concern. Other wildlife representative of the region includes black bears, wolves, lynx and owls, as well as lake trout, pike and walleye. Numerous archeological sites exist, helping to demonstrate that the area has long been of special significance to First Nations. The site was one of several protected areas in the circumpolar region recommended at the October 2003 Boreal forest workshop held in Russia for consideration as possible World Heritage nominations. This project area is considered part of the Midwestern Canadian Shield ecoregion, which is in turn part of the Canadian Taiga Biogeographical Province (Udvardy classification).

Note: These criteria were identified during the Tentative List process; the criteria used might change as the nomination is developed.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Quttinirpaaq National Park
Tentative World Heritage List

Encompassing the northernmost lands in Canada, only 720 km from the North Pole, Quttinirpaaq National Park of Canada (37,775 km) covers the northern portion of Ellesmere Island. The park consists of sedimentary mountains, ice caps, glaciers, ice shelves and fiords. The park borders on the Arctic Ocean and rises to Mount Barbeau (a nunatak), at 2,616 m the highest mountain in eastern North America. Much of the park, including the Hazen Plateau, is a polar desert receiving less than 2.5 cm of annual precipitation. Some areas of highly productive sedge grasslands occur, which support a range of Arctic wildlife including muskox, arctic hare, wolves and the endangered Peary caribou. Lake Hazen is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the circumpolar region, and has attracted great scientific interest as a thermal oasis in a polar desert. Unique physical features are the ancient deposits of 80 m-thick freshwater ice shelves that extend several kilometres out over the Arctic Ocean. The major valleys of the park are central to one of the routes by which early Aboriginal peoples moved from the Canadian Arctic to Greenland. The route contains three major axes of contact during the early Palaeo-Eskimo period (4500-3000 years ago). All pre-contact cultural groups known to have occupied High Arctic Canada, including Independence I (4500-3000 years ago) and Independence II (ca. 3000-2500 years ago), Late Dorset (ca. 1300-800 years ago) and Thule (ca. 900-300 years ago), are represented by archaeological sites in the park. The park has one of the highest concentrations of pre-contact sites surveyed in the High Arctic, including sites associated with the earliest documented human inhabitants of this remote region.

Note: These criteria were identified during the Tentative List process; the criteria used might change as the nomination is developed.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Red Bay Basque Whaling Station
Newfoundland and Labrador
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2013

Red Bay is an exceptional example of the Basque whaling tradition overseas and, at its peak in the 16th century, was the largest and most important port in the world associated with the initial phase of international whaling. Through its extensive archaeological remains, it presents the most outstanding and complete evidence of the origins of the large-scale commercial whaling industry and of the associated traditions and techniques that developed and thrived globally for three centuries.

The Basque Whaling Station at Red Bay is the most outstanding example of land and sea use associated with early industrial-scale commercial whaling and whale oil production. The archaeological resources found at Red Bay provide unprecedented insights into the adaptation of the 16th century Basques to the harsh terrestrial and marine environment of Labrador as they became world leaders in the hunting of whales and the processing of whale oil more than four centuries ago.

Every year from the 1540s to the early 1600s, as many as two thousand Basque men and boys left their home in southern France and northern Spain and sailed across the North Atlantic Ocean. Their lucrative destination was some four thousand kilometres away in eastern Canada, along Labrador's Strait of Belle Isle and Quebec's Lower North Shore. Backed by ship owners and outfitters, the aim of their voyages was to hunt for North Atlantic and Greenland Right whales, render the blubber into oil on site, package it for transport, and bring it back home for market. Whale oil was a commodity highly prized in Europe as a brighter burning lamp oil and as a serviceable lubricant for leather products and an additive for paints, varnishes, and soap. The story of this industrial-scale whaling activity is thoroughly documented as an early example of economic exploitation of rich North American natural resources by European commercial interests.

Archaeological excavations carried out on land and underwater show that during the peak whaling periods of the 1580s upwards of a thousand men were working out of the whaling station at Red Bay, Labrador alone. This port, known to the Basques as Butus or Grand Bay, would have been the largest in the world at that time. The extensively used site contains all of the major elements associated with Basque whaling activity overseas; its traditions and techniques. (It is an industry the Basque would thrive in globally for three centuries). Uncovered remains include a network of more than a dozen shore stations which typically were comprised of rendering ovens, where whale fat was rendered into oil in copper cauldrons over fire pits, cooperages, workshops, temporary dwellings, and wharves. A cemetery and lookout sites are also present. Period artefacts and a massive assemblage of bowhead and right whale bones complete the collections. Also discovered in the Red Bay harbour itself, were the well-preserved remains of a number of vessels that provide an unparalleled illustration of 16th century Iberian shipbuilding technology, including four whaling ships (galleons) and a number of smaller boats used in the whale hunt.

After several decades of prosperity, Basque whaling in Canada began to decline in the final years of the 16th century. Many factors led to this decline, among them, overhunting, discovery of new whaling grounds elsewhere, climatic change, and changing political circumstances. The collective body of knowledge gained from years of terrestrial and underwater research at Red Bay has dramatically changed the understanding of the beginning of large-scale and overseas whaling, as well as the knowledge of the early European history of North America, particularly the role that the Basque played in it.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Rideau Canal
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2007

The Rideau Canal is a monumental early 19th century canal covering 202 km of the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers from Ottawa to Kingston. This large strategic canal was constructed for military purposes at a time when Great Britain and the United States vied for control of the region. It is the best preserved example of a slackwater canal in North America and the only North American canal from the early 19th century to remain operational along its original line with its original structures intact.

The Rideau Canal is a recreational paradise, attracting visitors from across North America and beyond to travel its 202 km length and explore its historic engineering and military feats at 24 unique lockstations. Consisting of a series of beautiful lakes and rivers connected by canals, it stretches from Kingston to Ottawa, Canada's capital, and is the oldest continuously operated canal in North America.

This engineering marvel and the fortifications built at Kingston to protect it were constructed at a time when Great Britain and the United States of America vied for control of the north of the American continent. Conceived in the wake of the War of 1812, it was to be a war-time supply route providing a secure water route for troops and supplies from Montreal to reach the settlements of Upper Canada and the strategic naval dockyard at Kingston. Through a stroke of brilliance, Lt. Col. John By of the British Royal Engineers envisioned and built a canal that would join the Cataraqui and Rideau Rivers. Thousands of Irish immigrants, French Canadians and Scottish stonemasons were among the labourers who helped push the canal through the rough bush, swamps and rocky wilderness of Eastern Ontario. Opened in 1832, the Rideau Canal was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century, and today is the best-preserved 'slackwater' canal in North America, and the only canal from the great 19th-century canal-building era that still operates along its original route and with most of its original structures intact.

When the fear of war passed, the canal soon became a major artery for regional commerce. Today, the log rafts, barges and steamers have given way to pleasure boats and paddlers, while scenic driving, cycling and hiking routes along the waterway provide easy access to the lockstations by land.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
SGang Gwaay
British Columbia
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981

At the 19th century village of SGang Gwaay llnagaay (Nan Sdins), remains of large cedar longhouses together with a number of carved mortuary and memorial poles illustrate the power and artistry of Haida society. These tell the story of the culture of the Haida people and their relationship to the land and sea and offer a visual key to their oral traditions. The village was occupied until shortly after 1880.

What was once a vigorous Haida community of 300 people is today a haunting assemblage of weathered and fragmented house frames and mortuary and memorial poles. By the 1880s, disease had decimated the population of Nan Sdins village on SGang Gwaay, an island at the southern tip of the Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) archipelago, and by the turn of the century only remnants of the houses and poles remained.

Fifteen poles were moved to museums in the 1930s and 1950s. More of the village has been taken by nature, consumed by age and the elements, and returned to the forest. What remains is unique in the world, a 19th-century Haida village where the ruins of 10 houses and 32 memorial or mortuary poles bespeak the power and artistry of a rich and flamboyant society.

The Haida have always thrived on the wealth of both the sea and the forest. Shellfish and salmon were staple foods. Giant Western red cedars were the raw material of ocean-going canoes, vast post and plank houses, and great poles bearing both symbols of family history and, holding inside, the bones of ancestors. The Haida lived on SGang Gwaay for thousands of years (as two-metre-thick refuse heaps of shells attest). The remnants of the village represent an ongoing chapter in an epic story of human settlement and artistry.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Tr'ondk Klondike
Tentative World Heritage List

This cultural landscape in First Nations traditional territory, including the Tr'ochk fishing camp the Klondike gold fields and the historic district of Dawson, illustrates life before, during and after the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-1898, the last and most renowned of the world's great 19th century gold rushes. First Nations story cycles and languages articulate this environment, which reflects centuries of continuing indigenous use as well as the physical and cultural transformations wrought by a half-century of corporate mining. At the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers, is the Tr'ochk fishing camp, the centre of the Tr'ondk Hwch'in traditional territory. Dawson sits opposite. Its hastily constructed, false-fronted wooden buildings, with some relicts and open spaces amid them, illustrate life during the gold rush and after. More opulent administrative and institutional buildings speak to the one-time prosperity of this former territorial capital. Beyond lie the Klondike gold fields centred on Rabbit (later Bonanza) Creek, site of the 1896 discovery of gold by James "Skookum Jim" Mason (Keish), sites of the labour-intensive individual miner society, the gigantic Dredge No. 4, and massive tailing piles left by corporate mechanized mining. Nearby are the relict mining camp headquarters at Bear Creek. Small-scale mining operations continue in the gold fields today. First Nations and newcomers continue an ongoing cultural accommodation, including negotiated land settlement agreements.

Note: These criteria were identified during the Tentative List process; the criteria used might change as the nomination is developed.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
Alberta and Montana
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1995

The world's first International Peace Park, comprised of Waterton Lakes and Glacier national parks, is situated on the border between Canada and the United States, where the mountains meet the prairies. This area of significant scenic value occupies a pivotal position in the continent, resulting in unique plant communities and spectacular landscapes found nowhere else in the world.

It was the Rotary Clubs of Alberta and Montana that proposed, in 1931, uniting Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta and Glacier National Park in Montana as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the first such park in the world. It was intended not just to promote peace and goodwill between nations, but also to underscore the international nature of wilderness and the co-operation required in its protection.

And certainly within the two parks, 526-square-kilometre Waterton Lakes and 4,051-square-kilometre Glacier, nature has provided much that is worthy of protection: high mountains and deep canyons, forest belts and prairie grasslands, deep glacial-trough lakes and rivers that feed three oceans. Indeed, few areas can claim as much diversity within such a concentrated area. Not least, the abrupt rise of the Rockies from the prairie flatlands has made the twin parks the place "where the mountains meet the prairie."

Matching the range of ecoregions is a corresponding diversity of wildlife — mountain goats, bighorn sheep, coyotes, grizzly bears, scores of birds, and a celebrated "international" herd of elk that migrates annually between summer mountain habitat in Glacier and winter prairie ranges in Waterton.

An Aboriginal presence in the region goes back 12,000 years, and there remain places in both parks that hold deep significance for First Nations peoples. Indeed, the International Peace Park has grown to become a park of three nations: Canada, the United States and the Blackfoot Confederacy.

©Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada
Wood Buffalo National Park
Alberta and Northwest Territories
Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1983

Wood Buffalo National Park is an outstanding example of ongoing ecological and biological processes, encompassing some of the largest undisturbed grass and sedge meadows left in North America. Along with huge tracts of boreal forest, the park provides crucial habitat for concentrations of migratory wildlife of world importance. The continued evolution of a large inland delta, salt plains and gypsum karst are also internationally significant. In Wood Buffalo, the world's largest herd of wood bison can be found and the predator-prey relationship between wolves and bison has continued, unbroken, over time.

Wood Buffalo is Canada's largest national park, and the very embodiment of the space and wilderness that symbolize Northern Canada. Its 44,807 square kilometres include huge tracts of boreal forest and plains, and some of the largest undisturbed grass and sedge meadows left in North America. Those meadows sustain the largest free-roaming herd of bison, commonly known as buffalo, in the world.

Great rivers grace the park as the mighty Peace flows through the heart of the park and the Slave and Athabasca form the eastern border. Where the Peace and Athabasca issue into Lake Athabasca is the world's largest inland freshwater delta. The endless streams and wetlands of the delta accommodate countless waterfowl, including ducks, geese, swans, loons and grebes.

The park was established in 1922, largely as a home for the remnant population of bison that escaped the slaughter in the late 19th century that reduced the monarch of the plains from 60 million to a relative handful. The plains in the park are on the historic northern limit of the bison's range, and several thousand plains bison were shipped north to join the native wood bison herd already there. The park is also home to the world's last remaining wild flock of endangered whooping cranes.

Last Updated: 09-Aug-2016