Anyone who thinks that hiking is a gritty affair might feel differently when they visit Murphys Point Provincial Park. This isn’t your typical trekking spot. The ground glitters here!
The silvery sheen is thanks to the long-shuttered Silver Queen Mine, situated within the park’s boundaries. From 1903 to 1920, it was busy mining mica, a sparkly mineral used in everything from industrial applications to the cosmetic industry. Mica is nature’s glitter, and when you’re hiking the Silver Queen Mine Trail, the soil indeed glitters.
How to visit
Murphys Point Provincial Park is located 90 minutes south of Ottawa. This family-friendly park offers car camping, cabins, yurts, beaches, canoeing, and excellent birdwatching. Day visits are encouraged and cost just over $10 (with discounts for seniors and military members).
Hitting the trail
The aptly named Silver Queen Mine Trail is one of five hikes at Murphys Point. It’s a gentle, flat route of about two and a half kilometres. The path takes you past heritage displays and to a miner’s bunkhouse (which showcases the humble communal living quarters miners would have endured) before concluding at the Silver Queen Mine.
If you’re on a guided tour, you can enter the mine. If not, you can still enjoy the hike and the glittery ground. A mini-book about the area’s history is available at the park store for $1.00.
What to expect on the tour
The Friends of Murphys Point and the Provincial Park staff offer guided hikes and regular tours of the Silver Queen Mine from June to Labour Day (generally on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at 10:00 a.m.) and during autumn weekends. Space is limited, and guests are encouraged to pre-register at the gatehouse, or call 613-267-5060.
Your adventure starts long before you start seeing sparkles underfoot. From the time you leave the parking lot, your guide will be providing information on the history of Murphys Point and pointing out what birds you might see on your hike (including golden-winged, yellow- and chestnut-sided warblers, indigo buntings, Baltimore orioles, and scarlet tanagers). They’ll also share the story of mica mining, why it was so crucial for Canadian industries… and why it fell out of favour. Kids will love this part of the tour, as the guides do an excellent job of engaging young minds about the many creative applications for the sparkling mineral.
As you approach the miner’s bunkhouse, you’ll start to notice an iridescent sheen to the ground. The rough bunkhouse stands in contrast to its lovely surroundings and serves as a reminder of the gruelling labour that was a part of mining life.
With hard hats in hand, the group heads to its final destination, the mine itself.
Exploring inside the mine
The Silver Queen Mine is home to a hidden gem and it’s not a mineral! The mine is open to the sky, and there’s an incredible natural hanging garden of lush ferns, mosses, and wildflowers coating the wall of the open pit. It feels like stepping into a fairytale. Forget about dark passageways and cramped tunnels. The walls of the mine are every bit as beautiful as the minerals within.
While mica mining is a thing of the past, its heritage remains very much alive thanks to the hard work of the volunteers and staff. With the glittery ground and gorgeous plants, this may just be one of Ontario’s most beautiful hikes.