Today’s post comes from the Wandering Wagars, an adventure-loving family traveling the world.
A great attraction can transport you to another world.
But the staff at Murphys Point Provincial Park took things in a different direction and ended up taking us back in time.
The Silver Queen Mine tour was the highlight of our visit to Murphys Point Provincial Park near Perth, Ontario.
Geology, caves, and nature have always played a big role in our family’s world travels, but when I joined the Silver Queen Mine tour with my wife Christina and two children, ages 5 and 8, we ended up sharing an amazing combination from Ontario. history, playful theater and stellar landscapes that left us asking for more.
We knew that the Silver Queen Mine was one of the most popular attractions in Murphys Point. But the open house event took the experience to a completely different level.
The Silver Queen Mine at Murphys Point
When Ontario’s first settlers began to expand, they encountered a challenging landscape of shallow soil combined with resilient bedrock.
The vast Canadian shield put obstacles on the roads that made farming very difficult. To make ends meet, settlers were forced to look for new sources of income.
And one thing the hard rock of eastern Ontario had in abundance were minerals. Veins of mica, apatite and feldspar were discovered. And enterprising settlers began to find ways to take advantage of them.
Murphys Point is located at the southern end of the Canadian Shield. Those who headed south from here were spared the harsh landscape. But those who stayed there devised brilliant methods to exploit it.
Photo: Kevin Wagar
Work on the Mica Mine at Murphys Point began in 1903 and lasted until 1920. Today, the mine is one of the park’s main attractions.
Visitors come for the mine’s fresh history and even fresher air. One of the most photographed places is the rock wall next to the open pit. It is filled with lush ferns, moss and herbs that bring life and color to the underground world.
And the Silver Queen Mine is so well insulated that it is often much colder inside the Silver Queen Mine than on the surface. This is perfect for those scorching hot days like the one we visited.
The Silver Queen Mine Tour
The Silver Queen Mine Tour took us along the Silver Queen Mine Trail. This starts across the street from Lally Homestead.
Along the way we were introduced to fascinating characters from a century ago. They lived here when operations at the mine were in full swing.
Photo: Kevin Wagar
Our first talk was with Kate, a young woman who hoped to earn twenty-five cents a day hammering and separating mica at the Rideau River processing plant in Ottawa.
As we made our way through the low tunnel to the mining shaft, the temperatures dropped.
The tunnel beams were well lit so we could find our way. And when we came out we discovered Foreman Thompson working on the lanterns. The lanterns were protected by thin sheets of mica that were extracted from the mine.
It was just one of many examples of how useful Silver Queen’s mining products were.
Photo: Kevin Wagar
The children were fascinated to see that they were almost old enough to work at the Silver Queen Mine themselves.
We learned about the different jobs within the mine and also a little about what makes a “bad” mine employee. While Foreman Thompson waited for the next group of candidates to enter the mine, we took time to explore the 40 meters of excavation that was done during the mine’s seventeen years of operations.
There are still examples of the minerals, crystals and veins that once made the Silver Queen Mine such a valuable asset to those seeking to make a living in this part of Ontario. As we explored deeper into the mine, we were able to find places where we were almost tempted to start digging ourselves to see what we could find. The thrill of the chase was beginning to get to us.
We continued our tour of the Silver Queen Mine leaving the cool, protected mine and returning to the surface. When we reached the surface, the heat of the day caused my glasses to fog up almost instantly.
We followed the trail until we reached a young engineer who worked in the mine boiler. The boiler was broken and he had had no luck repairing it. Without the boiler, workers were forced to carry the loose stone by hand to the surface. Not pleasant work in the July heat.
Our tour of the Silver Queen Mine ended in the miners’ bunkhouse, where the mine staff slept and ate. The two women who ran the kitchen shared the struggles of feeding the miners.
Photo: Kevin Wagar
They also informed us of the strict rules in place to maintain peace in the camp. No alcohol because alcohol causes fights. There are no cards because cards lead to fights.
In fact, they told us that there were many things that led to fighting. So the director of the mine decided to prohibit many things. We all decided that maybe working at the Silver Queen Mine wasn’t so much fun after all.
Visiting the Silver Queen Mine at Murphys Point
Silver Queen Mine Tours are offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays weekly throughout July and August, with an open house every Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Please note that for security reasons there is there is no access to the mine at other times. However, visitors can still walk the trails and follow the self-guided interpretive panels.
Visitors must have a valid park day-use permit or camping permit to participate.
If you’re visiting for a day, you can reserve your day-use permit online up to five days in advance. In addition to your day-use or camping permit, pre-register for a mine tour at the Murphys Point gate or call 613-267-5060.
These guided tours last 1.5 hours and take you into the mine and along the Silver Queen Mine trail.
Both experiences begin in the Lally Homestead parking lot.
The Silver Queen Mine trail is located in front of the parking lot. Lally Homestead is about a five-minute drive from the Murphys Point gatehouse.