Basecamp at Kap-Kig-Iwan Provincial Park
We came to the Kap-Kig-Iwan Provincial Park for the Rocks, Minerals and Mines
|GPS Coordinates are 47.800970, -79.880129.|
Link on Google Maps
The COVID-19 restrictions spoiled our travel plans. We needed some excitement, away from civilization. Travelling back in time to the early gold and silver mines was exactly what we needed.
We found the Kap-Kig-Iwan Provincial Park, about 550 km (6 hours) on highway 11, north of Toronto. The park is somewhat central to our points of interest and very close to Englehart. The town has a grocery store and a LCBO for wine and beer. Restaurants were still closed as a result of the COVID restrictions. The services in the Provincial Park were reduced to the minimum, therefore the showers and washrooms were closed. We could eat, we could drink, but we eventually had to find a solution for the shower. Northern Ontario has so many lakes, we never had a doubt that we couldn't find one in a reasonable distance to go for a swim.
The Kap-Kig-Iwan camp site was not even 50% full. When we made the reservation, we didn't know that our site #28 was possibly the biggest site. Click on the image(s) with the white frame to see a full size picture.
We had several big trailers around us, most of them with seasonal permits. It is actually nice to return to our small trailer after a day of excursions and be greeted by our friendly neighbours. They were also an interesting source for places to visit and the local history. We will definitely sign up for a seasonal camp site in the coming years. This is an absolutely stress free environment.
About 20 minutes east was another Provincial Park, the Larder River PP. This is a non-operating park for day visits and fishing. The Clear Lake in the park became our preferred spot for the evening swim. Most of the time we had the whole lake to ourselves.
The 'beach' in the picture is a small clearance with room for about three cars. There was a fire pit and the round pebbles on the beach made it very easy on our feet.
Two short fishing attempts yielded no lunch even so the lake was stocked with Rainbow Trout and Splake the year before.
Talking about lunch, all the restaurants in Englehart were closed. The closest places were about 60 kilometers away and were open for takeout or were serving on the patio as per Phase 2 of the COVID restrictions.
Most days we had a good breakfast, then off we went for excursions and back 'home' for dinner. Our kitchen got some major upgrades in preparation for this years seasonal camp site, as we already know, did not happen. The cast iron skillet pan is one, the single element induction stove is the other. The set was on sale, complete with three pans and utensils.
In the absence of fresh fish, we had to sizzle some canned meat. No matter how you look at it, it is camp food and the two most important ingredients are the surrounding and the company. It was a great meal.
During one of our mine visits, we met a couple with an ATV. They were from the area and knew the place well.
We exchanged some stories about 'must see' places like abandoned mines and trails. We talked about COVID and that the only places that serve food are the fast food chains. We learned that there are two restaurants in Haileybury with a patio well worth the visit.
One is the L'Autochtone that serves "North American classics as seen through an Indigenous Lens", the other is the Whiskeyjack Beer Company. It turned out that Ursula was the dedicated driver, beer was the preferred choice. We sat on the patio and enjoyed life music. A local singer-songwriter entertained us with new songs from his COVID-Album and other classics.
We both loved the food and drink at Whiskeyjack Beer Company and repeated the visit before the end of our vacation.
If you didn't hear about Hailebury before, it is off hwy 11 at the end of hwy 11B, past Cobalt on Lake Timiskaming. The whole area is very touristy and well worth a visit. But wait until the COVID restrictions are lifted. Don't forget to have a beer at Whiskeyjack Beer Company. Tell them 'Ursula & Dieter sent you'. If enough visitors do that, we may get a free beer on our next visit
We did a few trips on service roads and the Old Marter Road 19. We found out that Road 19 was in worse condition than the service roads.
One trip was for night offroad cruising. We left our camp site at 7 pm and were hoping to encounter some wildlife. We did see a hare. Nothing bigger than that. The mosquitoes and blackflies were brutal as we were waiting for the sun to set. That was the moment where we knew that the next upgrade will be a bug screen for the window(s).
We watched the sun go down, leaving a nice orange line on the horizon. Can't beat that view. We waited until all light was gone so we could start with our cruise. The offroad lights produced a most unexpected balance of light together with the crescent moon.
More about offroad trips on the next pages or skip to Offroad trips in the Timiskaming District
Heritage Silver Trail
We came for the abandoned mines and the Heritage Silver Trail is the best way to learn about the history of mining and see the tools and some of the old places.
The Heritage Silver Trail is a self-guided tour. The trail map and trail guide are available from their website. We spent two days to complete the trail. There is too much information and we were in no rush.
On the 'Cart Lake Tailings Lookout' we actually left the Jeep parked and crossed the dried out lake to have a closer look at the 'Silverfields Mill'. The building is behind a fenced, but it sure is more impressive close up than from across the lake.
Four sites are no longer part of the Heritage Silver Trail, two of them we passed by chance during our excursion to the Hound Chute plant on the Montreal River. This plant generated compressed air for the mines.
Our next visit will hopefully have all the museums open again, including the museum in Cobalt. We tried to book an underground mine tour at the Colonial Mine Site, but like all the guided and indoor attractions, it was closed.
More about the Heritage Silver Trail on the next pages or skip to Heritage Silver Trail
Cobalt and abandoned mines
When you look on the map you find numerous mine icons littered all over the Cobalt area. The Heritage Silver Trail covers the topic on mines in full detail. We were looking for the 'off the beaten track' mine accessible only by four-wheel drive. We were successful.
Some of our discoveries were a pile of rubble where the mine was filled with rocks. The map does not really give much information on the mine. In preparation for this trip, we downloaded the topographical maps from Natural Resources Canada and covered this in our Digital Topo Map document.
The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources commissioned a wealth of books about Rocks, Minerals and Mines. The Book we use to guide us in our quest is:
Rocks and Minerals for the Collector
Cobalt - Belleterre - Timmins: Ontario and Quebec
by Ann P. Sabina. 1974
Enter Ann P. Sabina in the search engine and you find her publications covering all of Canada.
More about the abandoned mines on the next pages or skip to Abandoned Mines
We brought the canoe with us. There is no way we could ignore the lakes and rivers. Some of them are in a Provincial Park and do not have cottages along the shore.
The Englehart River flows through the Kap-Kig-Iwan PP where a series of falls are. Outside the park, the rivers looks calm and slow moving. The river seems to have different names and shows as Blanche River on the map. About 15 minutes away from Englehart, we crossed the river with the Jeep. It looked inviting to take the canoe and paddle back to our camp site. Well, we didn't do it.
The Larder River Provincial Park has a 30-kilometre stretch of the river preserved for canoeing.
And possibly the jewel of canoeing in the area is the Montreal River Provincial Park. The short trip we took was memorable.
More about our canoe trip on the next pages or skip to Canoe Trip on the West Montreal River
The Kap-Kig-Iwan PP is just outside Englehart. We enjoyed our stay very much and accepted the fact that all excursions were about one hour or more away. Our areas of interest were Cobalt and the township of Coleman to the south (65 km). To the west was Elk Lake (40km) and Matachewan (80km). And to the north was Kirkland Lake (50km).
The Englehart area all the way south to Cobalt is farm country. When we look at the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas from the Ministry of Natural Resources, this whole area is shaded gray. Grey means Private Land, mostly farm land in our case.
Click the Canola field picture to open a screenshot from the map. Private land is not a place to go wheeling.
Once you drive past the towns mentioned above, you will find the service roads, the hidden lakes, abandoned mines and 'no bars' on your phone. Unless you travel on hwy 11 (or 400 to the south), there is practically no cell phone reception.
Rocks and Minerals
We found gold! When you get very close to it, there is gold. The difference between Gold and Pyrite (Fools Gold) is the colour. Gold is golden to silvery yellow, Pyrite is a pale to medium brassy yellow. This one here sure is silvery yellow to us. The picture is on purpose not a closeup, we like the idea to have found Gold.
Months before the trip, we started to look for information about Rocks and Minerals. We found many documents covering all aspects of Geology. Fascinating topic. Did you know that the Canadian Shield "is a large area of exposed Precambrian igneous and high-grade metamorphic rocks that forms the ancient geological core of the North American continent" (source Wikipedia: Canadian Shield). If that all sounds gibberish, well, that is Geology for you.