In 2000 two boys, Mark Turner (11) and Daniel Helm (8),
were tubing down rapids in Flatbed Creek just below Tumbler
Ridge. They fell off their tube and walked back upstream on
bedrock. They noticed a series of depressions in the rock and correctly
identified these as a dinosaur trackway. Trying to convince
adults of the importance of their discovery, their perseverance
paid off as their trail led to Phil Currie, Curator of Dinosaurs
at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, and to palaeontologist Rich
McCrea, western Canada's authority on dinosaur footprints.
In 2001 McCrea came to visit, confirmed the importance of this
in situ discovery, and found British Columbia' s second ever
dinosaur bone right beside it. At the time this was one of
the only places known where footprints and bone had been discovered
together in the same rock layer. Press releases made national
headlines, and these events served as catalysts for the formation
of the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation.
Tumbler Ridge's assets of surrounding physical beauty, unparalleled
setting, and unique history, coupled with the emerging palaeontological
discoveries, led to the identification of four main museum
themes to be developed:
Dinosaurs and other fossils
Natural History including waterfalls
Coal and the creation of Tumbler Ridge
Human History (archaeology, pioneer and recent history).
McCrea taught the passionately enthusiastic locals what to
search for, and soon regular dinosaur footprint discoveries
were being made. On one expedition down a canyon with a few
dozen footprint discoveries, a crucial find was made: BC's
first accumulation of dinosaur skeletal material. This was
also by far the oldest dinosaur bone material in western Canada,
and very few bones from this age of rock are known worldwide.
The possibility of this representing new species to science
provided further impetus, and a fundraising drive was initiated
to make possible the excavation.
This progress was matched at the administrative level, registering
the TRMF first as a non-profit society and then obtaining charitable
status, and the Board of Directors and other volunteers committed
thousands of hours to further their dreams. Displays were
created in the Tumbler Ridge Community Centre, trails
were built to the dinosaur footprint field sites, and guided
tours were offered. Loraine Funk was the TRMF first president,
followed by Carolyn Golightly in 2003/04 and Rose Colledge
In 2004 funding was obtained through the federal Softwood Industry
Community Adjustment Economic Initiative (SICEAI) and allowed
for the outfitting of the Peace Region Palaeontology Research
Centre (PRPRC) in Tumbler Ridge, where collections are rapidly
accumulating not only of dinosaur bones and footprints but
of fossil corals, plants and many other types that make northeastern
BC a palaeontological hotspot.
The excavated material is removed to the PRPRC where it will be prepared, researched, described
and exhibited. By the end of 2004 170 bones had been removed form the canyon
to the PRPRC, and two further dinosaur bone sites had been discovered, yielding
anothert 130 bones. At this point 300 of BC's 301 known dinosaur bones were from
the Tumbler Ridge area.
Palaeontologists Rich McCrea and Lisa Buckley have complementary expertise in
footprints and bones respectively. They now work out of the PRPRC, which increasingly
plays a regional role, assisting communities in the Peace Region with their fossil
finds and exhibits, serving as a catalyst for the Northern Dino Tour
that will be an international drawcard for the region.
With further funding from Western Diversification, the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery
will be constructed in 2006 in Tumbler Ridge.
An enormous amount media exposure has been generated by this activity,
with features by Discovery Channel, Knowledge Network, and Globe and Mail and
many others. The first book has been written on the finds. Entitled "Daniel's
Dinosaurs", and written for kids aged 6-12, it takes readers through the
remarkable series of events that began with Daniel and Mark's initial discovery.
It is written by Daniel's father, local physician Charles Helm, who is also the
TRMF President. Proceeds from sales support TRMF projects.
While paleontology has grabbed the spotlight (and has already significantly diversified
the Tumbler Ridge economy) the other TRMF themes are not being neglected.
This is reflected in the expanding number of exhibits, in recently published
research, and in forthcoming books.
All this progress has occurred at a rate which sometimes seems breathtaking.
The twelve members of the volunteer Board of Directors meet monthly, and oversee
the TRMF activities, still focussed on the long term goal of building
a facility of an international standard in Tumbler Ridge."