Common menu bar links

World Heritage: Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador

Painting by Bernard Pelletier represneting a bay, rocks and an old fisherman shed.
Painting by Bernard Pelletier
© Parks Canada, Bernard Pelletier

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.

More information

Parks Canada websites:
Gros Morne National Park of Canada

World Heritage Centre website:
World Heritage - Gros Morne National Park

More Images

Aerial view of the majestic Western Brook Pond fiord with its steep cliffs and the river flowing at the bottom.
Western Brook Pond Fiord
© Parks Canada, Robert Schechter
Picture of Crow Cliff seen from the back with a forest in the forefront.
Crow Cliff
© Parks Canada, B. Prall
Picture of a very plane plateau where water pounds mix with rocks.
Tablelands Plateau
© Parks Canada, Ian K. MacNeil
Picture of costal dunes a beach and the sea.
Coastal Dunes near Western Brook
© Parks Canada, W. Lynch