There’s something special about the geological make-up of Ontario’s Highlands, which has long impacted our land, people, and way of life. When you understand this, when you learn to read the rocks, you can uncover the secret history of our Earth and the lands that shaped our communities.
As one of the most diverse geological settings in Canada, opportunities to discover the incredible history of the land, dig for buried treasures, and uncover the stories of those who came before us are woven across the region. We’ve not only put together a collection of all the hidden gem experiences dotting the region, but also gone the extra mile by choosing four one-day trips to travel to be amazed by the geology of the region, snap a ‘geo-selfie’ (and enter a contest for your chance to win – read on below for rules & regulations) and expand your mind.
Jump in the car, hop on your cycle, or rev your motorbike and head out on one of the following trips, and remember to take your Geo-Selfie map and snap your pic while you’re there.
To Take in Incredible Views
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Get a different perspective on the rugged landscape of Ontario’s Highlands as you climb 30 metres to gaze out from the top of Dorset Lookout Tower. Take in the panoramic views of the powerful landscape below, before heading to the Minden Wildwater Preserve to witness the power of the water carve, cut, and shape even the striking geology of Ontario’s Highlands. End the trip getting up close with the lands during a guided eco-tour of Greenmantle Farms and marvel as you take in the sight of undisturbed rare mineral deposits, like fluorrichterite, apatite, horneblende and tremolite.
To Step into the Past
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Head to the town of Bancroft to discover your own abandoned treasure at the CN Rock Pile (stop by the Bancroft Tourist Information Centre for directions), where from 1927 to 1939, nepheline (used in making ceramic and glass) was discovered. Not commercially successful as the deposit was too small and contained too many impurities, some of the last shipments were left beside the railroad tracks and today is a popular collecting site for minerals like biotite, calcite, cancrinite, scapolite, sodalite, natrolite, apatite and zircons. Marvel at the royal blue hues of sparkling sodalite samples and jewelry in The Princess Sodalite Mine Rock Shop, and try your hand at collecting in the “Rock Farm” onsite, before pointing yourself towards Foymount to peer into the depths of ‘The Valley’ from Ontario’s Highest Populated Peak. Continue on to Eganville to journey back to the farthest reaches of time on a fossil hunt in the Ordivician Capital of Canada as you take a guided tour or explore on your own along the John Egan Geoheritage Trail – a reclaimed wildlife habitat and historic site that also offers five acres of prime fossil hunting grounds in the heart of town.
To Get Your Hands Dirty
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Pick up a permit at Kauffeldt’s Grocery in Quadeville for a self-guided dig at the open quarry pit at the Beryl Pit Mine and call ahead for a guided visit of the Rose Quartz Pit while you’re there. Head to Eganville to marvel at the limestone channels of Bonnechere Caves as you learn about the fossils of the critters that came before, and relive the harrowing adventure of the man who first discovered the Caves. End your visit with a stay at Calabogie Peaks, where Dickson Mountain stands as the highest peak in the Madawaska Highlands and the rock beneath your feet is Precambrian igneous rock – granite and gneiss. From the top of this 2.5-billion-year-old site, you can see all the way to the Gatineau Hills of Quebec.
To Marvel at Nature
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Discover a couple of Ontario Parks for the chance to not only take in beautiful undisturbed landscapes, but also expand your mind as you learn more about the earth around you. Marvel at the sheer expanse of Mazinaw Rock in Bon Echo Provincial Park, rising 100 metres high above Mazinaw Lake and covered in more than 260 Indigenous pictographs before climbing to the top to see the rock up close and gaze out at the surrounding landscape. Explore a deeper level of geology and history during a visit to Murphys Point Provincial Park by exploring the interpretive trail Silver Queen Mine on your own or pre-registering for a guided tour that includes a trip into the bunkhouse.
To Continue Following Your Curiosity
If the above day trips aren’t enough to satisfy your curiosity into the unique geology of Ontario’s Highlands, make sure to download our Hidden Gems brochure here for a full list and map of more than 40 sites to visit to expand your mind and discover the story of our Earth. While you’re wandering Ontario’s Highlands, take advantage of the ‘Geo-Selfie’ Polaroid frames at each of the 12 locations above and share your photo with us on social media with #OHRocks.