Silver Strike at Cobalt

A chance reflection from the bottom of Long Lake in the summer of 1903 sparked the

The Old Railway Station
Visit the old Railway Station

greatest silver discovery in Ontario. It wasn’t long before Cobalt was a fiery word spoken around the world wherever potential investors could be found.

The silver was first discovered by a couple of foresters who were picking out tracts of rich timber for the railway that was pushing into the area from North Bay and expecting to reap a big profit by logging areas relatively untouched because of their long distance to market.

Many mines filled the wilderness after the Strike

To check out the rumours of silver an Ontario Provincial geologist came to the site. He too spotted the silver and also found some samples of the mineral cobalt. He painted Cobalt on a sign and erected it at the south end of the lake.

Old Air Compressor
Old Air Compressor

There, in the Ontario wilderness, the town of Cobalt sprang to life and grew rapidly to over 10,000 people. Before the town had its 3rd birthday it was levelled by an exploding dynamite cache. Subsequent fires and influenza struck the town but it has survived.

The two foresters had started a silver bonanza and by 1908 the McKinley-Darraugh Mine was producing tons of rich silver ore. That intensified the search. If there was silver in one spot, maybe it was in others, and a multitude of mines became the proof of that theory.

Mining Country
Mining Country Could be Anywhere

The ore was extremely rich producing over 500,000 ounces of silver, but the veins were shallow. By the beginning of the 1920’s with a large number of mines actively mining, the ore was running out for some mines and it was not too long before the population shrank. The town did not die as has happened to so many mining towns. It’s not a ghost town but is a quiet place with many historic buildings, although it has lost many to the rampages of fire.

You will find people very friendly and ready to direct you to interesting places. You

Heritage Silver Trail
Heritage Silver Trail

definitely will want to stop at the Cobalt Mining Museum which is surprisingly spacious inside. It has a large display of silver ore as well as other mineral and rock displays. There is a wonderful display of fluorescent rocks that is really magnificent. In addition to the rocks and minerals you can check out the large collection of mining and prospecting equipment.

The Train Station Welcome Centre is just down the hill from the museum and contains a military museum display.

One of the Murals Found About Town
One of the Murals Found About Town

Today the Heritage Silver Trail is a self guided six kilometer trail visiting some of the closer historical mines and showing you a variety of aspects of mining. This is an interesting drive for those who like history, and ghostly ruins. It’s quiet, yet if you listen very hard, you maybe can hear the sounds of mining, the explosions, the noise of the mills, and the tramp of tired miners going home after their day’s work.

Happy RVing

For more than four decades James Stoness has travelled the roads of North America, photographing and writing about what he has seen. His travel articles and beautiful pictures have been published in several magazines and newspapers. He is also the author of five western novels.

Cobalt is one of the many wonders visited in his scenic travel guide book, “Canada: Beyond the Far Horizons”

Visit his website at:

La Cite de L’Or

Our fascination with gold is endless and enduring. Capitalizing on this interest, the city of Val D’Or has established the site at the old Lamaque Gold Mine as an industrial mining

The Mine's Headframes

heritage. Funds, along with Federal Government grants are rapidly turning this abandoned gold mine into an exciting day trip into the past to see how the gold mine operated during its active years.


Here, you will have the opportunity to visit the mine, mine buildings, and the preserved home of the miners, and experience the ambiance of a real gold mine.

A visit to the Administration office shows you real samples of the gold ore, taken from the gold veins. Sometimes after viewing the samples you wonder what was it that looked so

Ore Samples

rich that it led to one of the richest mines in the area. In here are also a few of the old tools used by the miners and the geologists.


The Winch room shows the winch that acted as an elevator to carry miners down the shaft into the mine, and to lift out the tons of ore that the miners had wrenched from the solid rock. The shaft descended 1200 metres and the hoistman was in full command of the operation. He had to follow cage with the men, and know where the tunnels on each level were so he could let men off to go to work.

The Analytical building kept statistics on the ore’s quality. Samples of ore would be pulverized and melted and analysed to find how much gold was present. A technician shows the tour group how the ore was treated and you can see a casting being prepared from an ore sample.

When it’s time to enter the mine you are taken to a clothing room and suited up.

Suit-up Room

You see how your suit is lowered from a hook, you get your hard-hat, and a lantern and battery and taken to a mine vehicle to climb aboard. This odd looking vehicle has the driver sitting sideways to his direction of travel, which looks very strange, and must be difficult to do. There isn’t much time to think about it because you soon enter the mine portal and begin to descend 91 metres to an old working level of the mine. In this old working level you see the drills that drilled  the rock, and the strange power shovel that loaded the broken ore onto the ore carts. Here, too, you wander along the darkened mine wall and perhaps ponder on the profession of a miner.

Mine Portal

Once back on the surface you can tour Bourlamque’s Mining Village using an portable tape player that tells stories about the various buildings. These are still occupied home and are painted nicely and look very well cared for.

After your tour of the mine’s facilities you will understand what goes on beneath some of the strange mining buildings you see as you travel the north country. There are a small number of electrically service RV sites so it’s a convenient place to visit, and see the town.


Happy RVing!

For more than four decades James Stoness has travelled the roads of North America, photographing and writing about what he has seen. His travel articles and beautiful pictures have been published in several magazines and newspapers. He is also the author of five western novels.  Visit his website at: