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Murphy’s Point Part Two ~ The Silver Queen Mine Trail

on July 29, 2012

Besides the fact that we left our reservations off until a week or so ago, and all the other places that did have sites available but were either under a radio ban or weren’t electric, one of the other reasons we chose Murphy’s Point was because of the Silver Queen Mine Trail…ok, my hubby wanted to go to see it…

Hubby is a history buff, loves the History channel, loves the Discovery channel and any channel that affords him to learn something new.

I’m more of a scenery type of gal…

One of his friends told him that there was a mine at Murphy’s Point that hubby might be interested in seeing. Well, of course, that was the selling point! Well, at least for him anyway.

So, here’s your little history lesson for the day!

It’s called the Silver Queen Mine, but they don’t mine for silver or Queens…in fact, no where in the guide does it say why it was even called that since they don’t mine silver or Queens…it’s Mica that they used to harvest from this mine. The land was crappy to farm because of the bedrock that lay so close to the surface, but because of the bedrock, the area was rich in minerals such as Apatite (also known as phosphate) and gneiss (pronounced “nice”.) Apatite was used to make fertilizer. But, it was the mica that was the most useful.

The type of mica that often occured together with apatite in that area was called phlogopite mica. It’s an amber colour with perfectly flat crystals that can be split into extremely thin, transparent sheets. It does not conduct electricity and can withstand temperatures over 800 degrees Celcius, making it natures best insulator.

Have you ever seen a woodstove with one of those little glass windows in the front? I always wondered why the glass didn’t melt. Well, that’s because it wasn’t glass. It was mica! It was also used in lanterns, as insulation in boilers and now, in the electrical industry. I think some of the components inside our electronic equipment today still contain pieces of mica in it.

We stood on the same road that the miners used leading from the Silver Queen Mine site to Hogg Bay (where we camped on Big Rideau Lake), about a kilometre and a half away. In summer, horse-drawn ore wagons made their way to the docks at the bay. Mineral ore was then loaded on to barges and shipped along the Rideau Waterway and Canal, which stretches from Ottawa (Hi William!) to Kingston. Later, tractors were used in the winter to draw sleighs to Perth where the ore was then loaded onto a train.

The mine had 28 workers that stayed in the bunkhouse. There was a cook as well, that cooked for the men, steam drillers, machinists, muckers, drill boys, bucket men and of course, no site would be complete without the boss…the foreman. They all stayed in the bunkhouse, or in the homes of some of the neighbours.

As we approached the mine entrance, we all got to don hard hats. The entrance was only 4 feet high so we all had to duck. I was glad to have it at one point as I forgot to duck on my way out!

Sorry the pics are a little blurry…There were a lot of people behind us, and I didn’t want to hold up the line while I tried to take a picture. Of course, this is the fam.

Inside the mine, the Park Warden (Tobi) told us the history of the mine, how the men chipped away at the mica to get big enough pieces of it. We weren’t allowed to take pieces of the mica, but Tobi had a big bowl of mica chips that you could get a piece from. Jamie picked out a really nice piece, which is what you see in her hand. Her piece was really quite thick as well, with many layers of mica.

The whole park itself has many of these pieces of mica in it. It’s at the beach in the water, and I found some on one of the trails near our campsite. I thought it was glass and told Jamie to stay away from it until I picked up a piece and realized that it was the mica. I gathered up a few of those pieces there to bring home with us since we weren’t actually at the mine anymore.

Hubby had a great time learning all about the mine and how it worked. I just went for the scenery. Thankfully, we got a little of each.

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8 responses to “Murphy’s Point Part Two ~ The Silver Queen Mine Trail

  1. Mari Collier says:

    I loved this entry. I would have been as enthralled as your husband over the history.

    • Beth Muscat says:

      LOL I didn’t mention that they had one of the park employees dressed up as a school teacher, and the park warden (Tobi) dressed up as the cook for the workers. They each gave a little added humour and history to the walk. It certainly wasn’t a long trail, and much of it was an old type road…so not rugged at all. But, it was fun.

  2. The Desert Rocks says:

    Enjoyed the story about the mine. In fact it was a wonderful piece of bhlogopite!

  3. Lena says:

    Well, the historical aspect of the mine was interesting! Thanks for sharing! I also like history of places, too!

  4. Fascinating! I’d love to check this place out for myself.

    I’ve been out to Big Rideau Lake a couple of times, but missed being here.

    • Beth Muscat says:

      I believe you have to go to the park to register…not sure if you actually have to be a camper or not, but as long as you register as they have specific days they do it on, then you should have no problem. You can do the trail without registering, but then you’ll miss the guides history lesson and the fun they put into it. It’s much better to do it that way. Also, if you do it on your own, you won’t be able to go into the mine.

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