Posted in abandoned, abandoned mines, abandoned mines in Ontario, adventure in Ontario, book on caves, Caves, caves in Ontario, Caving in Hamilton, Caving in Ontario, environment, exploration, history, industrial archeology, ontario, ontario caves, Ontario geography, Ontario Underground, Ontario's geography, Ontario's geology, photo, Photography, photos, picture of, rock collecting, rockhounding, rockhounding in Ontario, Rocks & Gems, rocks and minerals, rocks in Ontario, rockwatching, searching for caves, strange places, tagged abandoned mines, abandoned mines in Ontario, Grand River, gypsum mines, industrial archeology, Nith River, Paris Ontario, plaster of Paris, urban exploration on March 11, 2012|
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An unseasonably warm day – early March found JC and I visiting Southern Ontario on a search for abandoned gypsum mines.
Where both the Grand River and the Nith River meet there is the quaint though somewhat aged town of Paris. It has the appearance of having been passed by progress, there are brick and barn board sided buildings in the downtown – somewhat neglected, but full of character. Large mills had once tapped the water power and the mining of plaster of Paris leaves a fascinating terrain of forgotten rail embankments, inexplicable hollows and gullies along the river bank, weirs and beaches where barges once loaded up the chalky material from underground and of course decayed and vine choked foundations.
I was inspired to photograph this backstreet business, ‘The Grand River Experience’ it appears that they offer canoe and kayak rental as well as tours down the river; I believe it was on their website that I had my first glimpse of a riverside gypsum mine – supposedly one of many that are around there. As you might have guessed, there is a connection between ‘plaster of Paris’ and the coincidence of this calcium sulfate material being mined from a conglomerate that underlies the area. It is said that the gypsum comes from Silurian age lenticular deposits on the south east flank of the Algonquin Arch.
Devil’s Cave is one example of a local feature where running water has dissolved away the gypsum and having washed the conglomerate out, there are small cavities lived in by a colony of beavers and decorated by spectacular white speleothems and flowstone.
Having now visited this area several times and followed apparently sure leads, both JC and I are somewhat disillusioned as to the prospects of finding open gypsum adits – though a cave is far preferred. Everything seems blocked up real well (with the exception of a single adit along the river bank downriver from the town). Crossed shovel and pick symbols on a map (available on the internet) generally leads you to a spot where you’ll find an undercut that is pretty much buried in countless tons of soil.
Having long been fascinated by industrial archeology, urban exploration and various forgotten tunnel explorations I’d like to know of where there are old gypsum mines around Paris where an interested person can visit and actually go underground?
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Posted in abandoned mines, abandoned mines in Ontario, adventure in Ontario, cave conservation, cave digging, cave diving in ontario, cave formation, Caves, caves in Ontario, Caving in Ontario, cool ice formations, Elora Gorge, environment, exploration, geography, geology, hiking, nature, Nature/Outdoors, ontario caves, Ontario geography, Ontario Underground, Ontario's geography, Ontario's geology, Photography, photos, picture of, rocks and minerals, rocks in Ontario, tagged caves in Ontario, Caves near Toronto, caving, Caving in Ontario, cool things to do near Toronto, Elora Gorge, shelter caves on March 4, 2012|
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JC and I have had some difficulty in locating these caves in the Elora Gorge, there are plenty of rumors out there, but because of the difficulty in viewing this area, with slippery ice and cliff edges that seem to blend into the drifted snow these caves had gone un-noticed until today.
As many of us live such an urban lifestyle most are hesitant to enjoy the winter – or at least the winter beyond the limits of a local ice rink. A ramble up the Elora Gorge is definitely a cool thing to do if you live in or near Toronto. The ice formations are amazing, especially with the warmer temperatures as of late and the rapid freeze to grow these incredible icicles. There was also an interesting bed of octagonal foam rafts that had floated down the river and gathered in an eddy. I managed to get down to the river and grab one. It was ice with a top of foam that had frozen. by their rubbing against each other the ice rafts had all developed this unusual geometric appearance and at their outer edge the rafts were being jostled out into the river and sucked back into the eddy further down to replenish the back end of this constantly moving carpet. It was like a natural conveyor belt.
Sadly – as much as photographing the ice formations is a cool thing, it looks like we will have to either wait for summer to reach the caves in the above picture, or we will have to wade across the river in less than ideal conditions. As seems to be the pattern, all caves that I’ve seen in the Elora Gorge are simple shelter caves – shallow cavities that have been scooped out by the water. Admittedly the caves present some interesting opportunities, but I’m not sure I’m ready to wade across the river in these temperatures. There also appears to be a possible scramble down the opposite cliff face. I will have to scout that out next weekend if I’m not with JC looking for abandoned gypsum mines – the landscape south of Hamilton is littered with them. JC just e-mailed to say that he visited a buried adit today from which 60 000 tonnes of rock had been removed. The land owner says that he had felt a breeze coming from there in the summer.
So will it be looking for caves or abandoned mines next weekend?
Cave near Kingston
One question – who is looking for a cave near Kingston? Do you know something that I don’t? Leave a message so I can contact you – your lead and the knowledge of my various contacts might be able to locate the treasure for the both of us.
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Posted in abandoned, abandoned mines, abandoned mines in Ontario, adventure in Ontario, Adventures, art, Caves, Education, exploration, extreme sports, humor, industrial archeology, Interesting, Life, My Book, Nature/Outdoors, News, niagara escarpment, Ontario geography, Ontario Underground, Ontario's geography, Ontario's geology, Photography, photos, picture of, rockhounding, rockhounding in Ontario, rocks and minerals, rocks in Ontario, rockwatching, searching for caves, strange places, tunnels, underground, underground Ontario, urban exploration, wierd, tagged abandoned mines, abandoned mines in Ontario, exploration, Niagara Falls, rock art, rock paintings, urb ex, urban exploration, urbex on October 19, 2011|
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Leaded paint rock art circa 1970. Do you suppose the artist was trying to express his inner soul? will this still be here a thousand years from now and what will they surmise of primitive Ontarions?
I found this unique piece of primitive graffiti in an abandoned Mine near Niagara Falls – this at the edge of a pool of water that stretched on into cavernous darkness. All through the water there are great hand-cut wooden beams and remnants of the previous mining operation and a deflated plastic raft that had once been used to venture deeper in. From past experience this would be the best way to do it as the mud is really treacherous.
Here is another urban exploration in Niagara Falls of a slightly more daring nature.
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Posted in abandoned, abandoned mines, abandoned mines in Ontario, adventure in Ontario, Adventures, Buy The Book, Canada, Caves, crazy things, creepy places, exploration, extreme sports, geography, geology, guelph, Hamilton, hiking, history, industrial archeology, Interesting, Life, mine, My Book, my life, Nature/Outdoors, niagara escarpment, ontario, ontario caves, Ontario geography, Ontario Underground, Ontario's geography, Ontario's geology, Personal, Photography, photos, picture of, rocks and minerals, rocks in Ontario, rockwatching, sports, strange places, tunnels, underground, underground Ontario, urban exploration, tagged Abandoned Mine, abandoned mines in Ontario, exploring abandoned mines, Ontario rock, Ontario sandstone, urb ex, urban exploration, Urban exploration in Ontario on October 18, 2011|
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As you might guess by my post I did not go to P-Lake today. I woke up At around 03:30 with a terrible headache (I always get one when the clouds are moving in and I hear we are in for a severe rainstorm tonight) and I thought – “I’m on holiday, why do I want to do this to myself.” It’s a 5 hour drive either way, lots of hacking through the bush and then I’m not even sure of where the cave is. Last time almost killed me. So instead I switched the alarm off and slept in till about 10 and then I went south for 2 hours instead of north for 5 – to the Queenstone Sandstone Mine. It was relatively easy to find and just as big and mazy as I remembered from that trip with Dan about 10 years ago. Only thing that has changes was the path to get there.
See that pillar in the middle of the room – go ahead kick it – I dare you.
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Posted in abandoned, abandoned mines, abandoned mines in Ontario, adventure in Ontario, Adventures, Bancroft, Bancroft gemboree, bats, bizzare, Buy The Book, Canada, Caves, caves in Ontario, caving, Caving in Hamilton, Caving in Ontario, collecting rocks near Bancroft, creepy places, Education, environment, exploration, extreme sports, geography, geology, guelph, Hamilton, history, industrial archeology, Interesting, mine, My Book, my life, mystery, nature, Nature/Outdoors, niagara escarpment, ontario, Ontario geography, Ontario Underground, Ontario's geography, Ontario's geology, Photography, photos, picture of, rock collecting, rockhounding, rockhounding in Ontario, Rocks & Gems, rocks and minerals, rocks in Ontario, rockwatching, searching for caves, strange places, tunnels, underground, underground Ontario, urban exploration, waterfalls, tagged abandoned mines, industrial archeology, mines in Ontario, urban exploration, Urban exploration in Ontario, urbex on September 28, 2011|
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There’s a crevice that cuts under a cliff face. It leads to an underground lake that just goes on and on. Dan and I spent about two hours underground wandering waist deep in water. I am thinking that the mine is somewhere between 100 and 170 years old.
Back in the 1820′s and 30′s there was a serious demand for building stone in Southern Ontario; Whirlpool Sandstone was one of the most valued materials. It was extracted from a layer just above the Queenstone shale.
Near Belfountain you can see this rock at the base of Church’s Falls. See the chapter on Belfountain on page 69 of my book “Rockwatching; Adventures Above and Below Ontario” The rock that came from there was a maroon color and was used to build Queen’s Park and various buildings at University of Toronto. Down here in the more southerly areas of the escarpment the Whirlpool Sandstone seems a lot higher on the escarpment than it is further to the north. It is also more varied in color and I am told that it is possible to find azurite and malachite in chert pockets in that rock.
Anyway the construction of the Welland Canal generated a great deal of demand for building stone as did the increasing size of the urban structures around the “Golden Horseshoe.” Finally around 1900 the skyscraper came into being. The strength of the modern skyscraper comes not from its rigid outer shell but from its internal steel girder skeleton. This change in design meant that standard construction stones suddenly lost their market and materials such as Italian and Indian marbles started showing up. They formed a thin veneer as did materials like glass, labradorite and granite. they were in no way responsible for the buildings structural integrity. Sandstone had seen its day and the mines closed shortly thereafter.
Some years back year Jeff Mirza and I traveled up to Belfountain to see if we could find our way into one of these underground tunnel systems. Apparently there are several deep passages above the hairpin bend as you wind down from Belfountain into the Credit Valley. Jeff had even seen a picture of a shaft in the forest with a ladder leading down into the mines. After a day of trudging along the hillsides we came to the conclusion that the entrances had all been blasted shut. It was not the case here. The tunnels lie wide open. It was as much a historical exploration as it was a geological one. The rooms were quite low though generally very wide and initially lit by small shafts that cut up to a brambly plateau above. The vegetation was so thick that it was almost impossible to progress on the surface, nevertheless, the shafts of light on the underground lake were really picturesque.
At times high banks of rubble rose out of the water and it was necessary to slither along on our bellies. In places deeper into the mine calcite deposition had made a hard, translucent shell across the top of these banks and we had to be careful so as not to damage the profuse clusters of soda straws that were forming on the roof. The bats seemed quite perturbed by our arrival in their world and somebody was cheeping angrily from up a crack in the roof. On several occasions they fluttered by and I could just catch glimpses of their chaotic flight. I was surprised by the extent of speleothem formation in the mine. I had believed that under good conditions soda straws could grow at about an inch every hundred years though in remembrance of a winter excursion Jeff and I had done up a storm sewer in Hamilton a few years back, that one inch can be quite drastically stretched.
As we waded through the lake there were tunnels that branched off in every direction, the air seemed dead and the steam that rose from our coveralls clung to us. it made photography quite difficult.
The water was so still and clear in one spot that I was surprised by the ripples when I crawled right into a pool. We continued on along a mound that was just beneath the surface. Dan wandered off to the side into the deeper water and suddenly found himself hip high in really treacherous mud. I had a similar experience moments later and we decided that further exploration would have to be done with an air matress. Up ahead it sounded like a heavy rainstorm and I think that there must have been a spot where the water was pouring in.
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Posted in abandoned, abandoned mines, abandoned mines in Ontario, adventure in Ontario, Adventures, Bancroft, Bancroft gemboree, Buy The Book, Canada, Caves, collecting rocks near Bancroft, Education, environment, exploration, geography, geology, industrial archeology, Interesting, My Book, my life, nature, Nature/Outdoors, ontario, Ontario geography, Ontario Underground, Ontario's geography, Ontario's geology, Photography, photos, picture of, rock collecting, rockhounding, rockhounding in Ontario, Rocks & Gems, rocks and minerals, rocks in Ontario, rockwatching, strange places, underground, underground Ontario, urban exploration, wierd, tagged abandoned mines, Bancroft, betafite, minerals in Ontario, radioactive rocks and minerals, rockhounding in Ontario, rocks and minerals on August 25, 2011|
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I paid my $2 at the house of the landowner whose property I had to cross and then headed off into the woods. I’d heard that the path to the mine was about 4 miles long (it was not), but possibly longer, and the route was signposted (it was not- or should I say, it was in places).
The attraction at the Silver Crater Mine is a pit and adit that are rich in Betafite crystals. I found a lump of calcite with the top of one such crystal sticking out. It looks like the dull grey top of an octahedron. The adit burrows through a granular calcite which in my opinion does not make for a well-supported roof. So my advice about the adit is to stay out. I went in about 10 feet before coming to this decision.
Aside from radioactive betafite, there is also apatite (turned red by radiation), large books of biotite and horneblende.
See video of the directions here – Directions to the Silver Crater Mine
See video of the mine entrance to the Silver Crater Mine – here (silver Crater Mine) entrance)
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Posted in abandoned, abandoned mines, abandoned mines in Ontario, adventure in Ontario, Adventures, Bancroft, Bancroft gemboree, bizzare, Buy The Book, collecting rocks near Bancroft, crazy things, exploration, gemology, gems, gemstones, geography, geology, history, industrial archeology, Interesting, Life, mine, mines in northern Ontario, My Book, my life, Nature/Outdoors, ontario, Ontario geography, Ontario Underground, Ontario's geography, Ontario's geology, Personal, Photography, photos, picture of, rock collecting, rockhounding, rockhounding in Ontario, Rocks & Gems, rocks and minerals, rocks in Ontario, rockwatching, sapphires, strange places, Travel, tunnels, Uncategorized, underground, underground Ontario, urban exploration, tagged abandoned mines in Northern Ontario, Boulter road near Bancroft, collecting minerals near Bancroft, collecting minerals near Craigmont, corundum, corundum in Northern Ontario, Corundum in Ontario, corundum near bancroft, Craigmont, nepheline syenites, old mine tunnels, Ontario rockhound, rock Hounding, rockhound, rockhounding, Rocks & Gems, rocks and minerals, sapphires in Ontario, Syenite, syenite in Ontario, Syenite under Robillard Mountain on January 29, 2011|
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Beneath Robillard Mountain
Craigmont is about as distant from the reach of the modern world as you are likely to get in the “near north”. Indeed it appears on the map as a substantial settlement but as you cruise up Boulter road you become aware of how far you really are, both geographically and culturally from the bustle of Southern Ontario.
Coasting over hills that stretch off greenish-blue into the summer haze it seems as though you are crossing into a time warp. Meadows are saturated with intense colour and high pastoral fields line the road, strewn with orange and yellow flowers. Beyond this lies the valley of the “Little Mississippi River”. Spike-topped conifers wander unbroken to the horizon and in hillside fields lazy cows watch disinterestedly at the crumbling demise of old log barns.
As a collecting locale, Craigmont is remarkable. Not only is the beauty unsurpassed but its minerals are spectacular. Corundum here is found in large euhedral (perfectly formed) specimens; lapidaries have been known to cut them into cabochons. In their book, “Rocks and Minerals of Ontario” the Ontario Department of Mines say that there are unusual curved mica crystals. Garnets, molybdenite, allanite, uranite, euxenite, magnetite, pyrite and hornblende also appear from time to time.
Blink and you just might glide past Craigmont. The inhabited part is now a private town. It exists as a cluster of houses, barns and sheds and around it the vegetables flourish in earthy rows.
Robillard Mountain is situated within sight of the present habitation; an impressive upheaval of rugged red rock. Some twenty separate excavations scar its slopes.
As a general rule most corundum is found in pegmatites and structures associated with nepheline syenites. In this area north of Bancroft the most abundant deposits (corundum) are said to be sandwiched between scapolite, nepheline andesine and a band of alkaline syenite.
I took a hike beneath the mountain to see the syenite from below.
More on corundum in Craigmont here …
Check out this abandoned mine in Cobalt ... Here
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