Ontario’s Highlands has more documented mineral occurrences than any other area of the province – more even than the great mining districts of Sudbuy and Timmins combined! If you’re just discovering the exciting outdoor experience of Recreational Geology, then check out these quick links for some great suggestions to get you started, but if you’re ready to break out on your own for a more “off the beaten path” experience of all that Ontario’s Highlands has to offer, read on…
Come to know the story of our Earth
|Dig for buried treasure in Canada’s Mineral Capital.|
|Immerse yourself in the historic waters of the Ottawa Valley.|
|Learn geology’s role in the Highlands’ industrial revolution.|
|Experience the Mica Festival and live geoheritage in Lanark.|
Discover Recreational Geology
Ontario’s Highlands offers plenty of great pre-planned and DIY excursions to enjoy, but the biggest reward often awaits those who are willing to go a little further afield. Whether you’re interested in finding the next great place to dig for crystals, rediscovering the remains of a long-forgotten mining heritage site, or being one of the select few to lay eyes on a stunning landform or scenic vista, the links below will help you to plan your own Recreational Geology adventure, and make your own discoveries.
- Recreational Geology can be fun and safe for families and people of all ages, but there can be risks involved in any outdoor activity:
- Never go out in the woods alone. Plan your trip, make sure someone knows where you’re going, and when to expect you back.
- Make sure you’ve got, and know how to use, the appropriate outdoor gear for your trip (safety, first-aid, survival, and navigation, etc.).
- Bring lots to eat and drink, and don’t forget the bug repellent and sunscreen.
- Dress appropriately. Being caught in the beaming sun without a hat, or unprepared for sudden rain is no fun – and sturdy footwear is a must (no open toes).
- Avoid trekking around in the woods during hunting season (mostly in the late fall). Contact the local Ministry of Natural Resources office for schedules.
- Aside from the typical, natural hazards such as cliffs, dead-fall, loose slopes, and so on, that one might encounter in the woods, also be aware of the potential to encounter constructed features such as old buildings, unmarked mine hazards, abandoned wells, etc. And stay out of old mine workings!
- Please honestly assess, and act within the limits of your own ability. These resources are presented for informational purposes, their use is entirely at your own risk.
Hobby Mineral Collecting
One of the most unique and rewarding experiences of Recreational Geology in Ontario’s Highlands is the signature activity of “hobby mineral collecting.” How else can you get down-to-earth in the great outdoors, gain a deeper appreciation for the inner workings of our planet, and come home with your very own buried treasure? But the best thing about mineral collecting in the Highlands is the near limitless number of potentially rewarding localities to explore, and the size and quality of so many varieties to be found at or near surface.
- This area is world famous for exceptional specimens of gemmy green apatite, beep blue sodalite, lustrous titanite, rare minerals like fluororichterite, and many, many more that you can still find in abundance here today.
- So far, nearly 300 minerals have been identified in Ontario’s Highlands (more, if you include distinct varieties and gemstone types).
- According to the Mineral Deposit Inventory of Ontario, we have well over 6,000 documented mineral occurrences in the Highlands – almost 300% more than any other district in the province!
- Several hundred of these represent old mines and developed prospects which can be great opportunities to collect, get an up-close look at our unique geology, or explore our storied mining heritage.
|Mineral Collecting in Ontario: A Guide for Rockhounds - Whether you consider yourself a “Rockhound” yet, or not, this is an essential read for anyone with an interest in Recreational Geology. It will help you to get started with information about the activity including an outline of Ontario’s Mineral Collecting Policy.|
|Informational Resources for Recreational Geology - the links in the Resources and Getting Around sections below are a summary of the highlights we’ve collected in this comprehensive document. Want all the secrets to unlocking the true potential of the Highlands’ hidden gems? Then download this free PDF with live links to the best sources of information about where to go, and how to get there.|
|Ontario’s Highlands Recreational Access Toolkit - There are plenty of new discoveries waiting to be made in Ontario’s Highlands’ public wilderness – Land O’ Lakes alone is over 70% Crown Land – but there are some great classic localities on private land too. This toolkit is designed to help you negotiate shared land use by providing plain-English interpretation of pertinent legislation and liability issues, and template access documents like waivers.|
Tips & Tricks:
- If you’re not sure what to look for in the field, a museum is a great place to start. It will help you to understand the appeal of the hobby if you’re new to it, or give you a sense of what to look for here if you’ve never collected in the Highlands before. Check out the world-class mineral displays in Bancroft and Perth during your stay!
- Even if you’re a seasoned collector, joining a guided field-trip like those offered by the Bancroft Chamber of Commerce or an outdoor organization dedicated to the hobby is the best way to familiarize yourself with the unique nature of Ontario’s Highlands’ geology before you break out “on your own”.
- While you’re out and about, be sure to enjoy your natural surroundings, but don’t forget to look down too – at the rocks! Even at established localities where the “classic spot” seems fairly well defined, a little bit of prospecting close by can really pay off. Just be sure not to stray outside the designated area, or onto someone else’s property.
- In a Rockhound’s Backpack: (taken, in part, from: Mineral Collecting in Ontario)
“Mineral collecting requires little in the way of equipment apart from an interest in rocks and a love for the outdoors. There are a few pieces of gear that will allow a rockhound to collect and protect a wider range of samples.”
- Geologist’s pick, mason’s hammer or small sledge hammer
- Prybar and chisels (1/2-inch to inch)
- Plastic bags and newspaper to wrap samples
- Packsack or utility pails to carry them
- Safety glasses
- Sturdy boots or shoes (no open toes)
- Sturdy gardening or work gloves
- Notebook to record your findings (location, location, location!)
- Hardhat if you are planning to work in quarries or around rock faces
- Area maps and guidebooks (topographical, geological, land status)
- And a flashlight to shine into samples to check for gem rough
Here are some great sources of information about Recreational Geology, and how to find rewarding destinations. Please take note, however… Just because an old mine, geological feature, or mineral location is listed in one of these resources, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s open to the public. Use the links under “Getting Around” below to help determine ownership, and who to contact if permissions are required.
|Central Canadian Federation of Mineralogical Societies - Joining a mineral, fossil, lapidary, or field naturalists club is a great way to learn the ropes from like-minded people in a friendly environment. CCFMS membership also offers exclusive benefits like special access to classic destinations and little-known treasures. Check to see if there’s a CCFMS member club in your area!|
|Rocks and Minerals for the Collector by Ann Sabina – This series of collecting and mining heritage guidebooks published by the Geological Survey of Canada covers much of the country in separate volumes – 14 in total – but four of them touch on Ontario’s Highlands! Although out of print, many titles are available as downloadable PDFs from the GSC, and paperback copies may be found at your local library or used bookstore: Bancroft area to Parry Sound • Kingston and Perth area • Ottawa to Peterborough (not yet scanned) • Ottawa to North Bay|
|Mindat.org - Mindat is the web’s biggest and best source of information about minerals and their locations. Try searching for the Counties Haliburton, Hastings, Renfrew, Lanark, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington, and check out the mineral and location listings for each (with plenty of pictures too!).|
|OGS Earth - Google Earth is a familiar navigational tool for outdoor explorers, but by using the powerful add-ons published by the Ontario Geological Survey as “OGS Earth,” you can view additional layers like the Mineral Deposit Inventory, Bedrock Geology, Lots & Concessions, and property status (temporary rights, Crown/private ownership, etc.) mapped right onto Google’s built-in satellite imagery and base-map features – it’s a prospector’s dream! (OGS Earth layers are downloadable as KML files – separate download of the free version of Google Earth required to view)|
|Geology Ontario – This is the public informational portal for the Ontario Geological Survey. It offers advanced searching of valuable databases like the Abandoned Mines Information System, and access to downloadable versions of long out-of-print maps, geological reports, and informational publications by the Ministry. Tip: use the Pick List feature under “Select Query Method” if you’re not sure what your options are.|
Ontario’s Highlands is one of the biggest, most sparsely populated tourism regions in southern Ontario, but it’s easy to get around with great roads for touring, many stopping-places, and lots of trails for excellent interior access. “Crown Land” is publicly owned, and generally freely, publicly accessible for many recreational activities. We have lots of it, but much of the Highlands is privately owned – even if it might not be clearly marked as such. Telling which is which once you’re ‘in the field’ can be tricky, and knowing what may or may not be allowed isn’t always specifically indicated, so it’s important to do some research on your intended destination before you hit the road.
It’s hard to beat Google Maps for basic driving directions, but advanced applications like OGS Earth (above) and the links below offer far more detailed information for specific interests, and local areas.
|Crown Land Use Policy Atlas - The Crown Land Use Atlas by the Ministry of Natural Resources features an interactive map intended specifically for identifying areas of public wilderness, offering information about the policies governing other recreational activities in these areas like camping, hunting, and fishing.|
|CLAIMaps - Many historic references use Geographic Township, and Lot & Concession information to identify locations. And if you’re looking for places to collect, you’ve got to consider mineral rights, not just surface ownership (unpatented mining claims, mining leases, seperate ownership, etc.). ClaiMaps is the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines’ official online source of this information. For more information about current mineral rights status and regulations, also contact Ontario’s Provincial Recording Office in Sudbury.|
|Public Geographic Information System websites (GIS) offer detailed, interactive map-based information coverage of roads, trails, Crown Land, and private addresses for certain individual Counties in the region: Haliburton County - Hastings County - Renfrew County - Frontenac County
Property Rights Information:
|Ministry of Northern Development and Mines - The friendly and knowledgeable staff at the regional MNDM office for Southern Ontario (in Tweed) is often the best first-contact for information about mineral rights, regulations, and active mining operations in Ontario’s Highlands. They also maintain the extensive library of the Ontario Geological Survey. Here you will find a wealth of information about mining data, heritage information, and mineral collecting opportunities.|
|Ministry of Natural Resources - This is a list of the district offices of the MNR for more information about Crown Land, recreational use, logging and hunting schedules, and so on for specific areas (see “Southern Region MNR Offices” near the bottom of the linked page). Note that Hobby Mineral Collecting (mineral rights, as opposed to surface or logging rights) is governed separately be the MNDM (above).|
|Land Registry Offices – Many public mapping applications can indicate if a property is privately owned (even offering street address and/or municipal roll #s in the case of County GIS sites), but none offer specific information about the owner of a particular property. If there’s no obvious point of contact on-site, and a phone book search turns up empty, the only way to get this information is often to apply, in person, at the appropriate Land Registry Office (a small fee may apply).|