[HT/PC-MEDIUM] Burning Sulphur (PNT) Natural Area

90 km south of Fort Vermillion, there is a scene and smell from Dante’s Inferno, bitter-smelling steam and smoke billows from rock debris along the Muddy River.


Topographical map of Burning Sulphur (PNT); northwest corner of the site noted. Image courtesy of https://atlas.gc.ca/toporama.
Topographical map of Burning Sulphur (PNT); northwest corner of the site noted. Image courtesy of https://atlas.gc.ca/toporama.

Map of the Area

Any maps and map views are for general information only. Do not rely on them for navigation or to determine legal boundaries.

Other Information

On the east slopes of the Buffalo Head Hills, about 90 kilometres south of Fort Vermillion, bitter-smelling steam and smoke billows from rock debris that has slumped down the hillside. The steam is formed as the underlying bedrock of iron sulphide-rich marine shales oxidizes and produces great heat. Although not a common phenomenon, evidence of this process can also be seen along the Smoky and Peace rivers as well as in the “Smoking Hills” of the Arctic coast.

The local bedrock is Cretaceous marine shale, which normally is impermeable, but slumping along the river banks continues to produce a number of fractures in the shale. Once exposed to air along these fractures, the iron-sulphide minerals, such as pyrite, quickly oxidize and create temperatures of over 300ÂșC. This heat bakes the nearby shale to a bright brick-red. Any groundwater that trickles down through fractures is quickly heated and turned into steam. Around the vents of escaping steam, native sulphur seeps through the fractured shale to solidify on the surface. Some of these sulphur seeps are currently burning and produce a very strong sour smell – a regular witch’s brew! [1]

Site Statistics

Site NameBurning Sulphur (PNT)
Site TypeNatural Area
SubtypeProtective Notation (PNT)
Natural Region(s)Central Mixedwood; Lower Boreal Highlands
O.C. No. (Land Ref. Manual)N/A
PASite ID (Map Ref #)548
Site # (Parks Website)N/A
Total Area127,91 ha. (316.08 ac.)
Recreation Activities
Operated By
Notes and Comments
Statistics and Details for Burning Sulphur (PNT) Natural Area


The following links are provided as a courtesy but are not verified or endorsed by SAPAA. Clicking on the link will cause you to leave the SAPAA website. Primary source of information is the Government of Alberta (All links accessed on 2022-12-14).

  1. Mega Page – Geological Wonders (apegga.org) Note: this link is to a non-https page and produces a security warning. The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) is a respected organization. Nevertheless, proceed at your own risk if clicking this link.

Editing, Review and Silence Procedure

  1. FRANK: Publish page
  2. HUBERT/PATSY: Assign page for editing by update tbd in the Title (4-
  3. Review for readability and alignment to SAPAA organizational reputation.
  4. Best available image
  5. Review for accuracy including:
    1. Correct map and site statistics
    2. Area size is correct
    3. Standards (e.g. use of hyphens, spelling, etc.)
    4. References are accessible and and notes match
  6. Review for formatting, e.g.: Centered captions, No empty blocks
  7. TEAM: Last walk through
    1. Any final discussion or notes
    2. Remove [name] from title
    3. Add to log book for silence procedure
    4. Delete these notes.

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