Unleash your inner rock hound at Highlands East's mineral collection sites!

Posted to Activities on Jun 18, 2019
Photo of rock-hammer.

The Municipality of Highlands East is proud to be the first Municipality in Ontario to take steps to secure public mineral collecting sites to allow our residents and visitors an opportunity to get outside and appreciate nature in a new and exciting way.

Hobby Mineral Collecting is a fun outdoor recreational pursuit that people of all ages can enjoy, and it makes for a great family outing. Adults and kids alike will delight in the chance to dig for buried treasure, get hands-on with the unique geology that defines the Highlands region, and bring home some colourful gems of your very own!

Highlands East (Cardiff, Wilberforce, Tory Hill) is world famous for fine specimens of gem green apatite, deep purple fluorite, large crystals of collector minerals like mica, tremolite, zircon, titanite, feldspar, and several rare and unusual species like fluororichterite, and stillwellite.

More information about Geology throughout the Highlands is available in the downloadable Ontario's Highlands Geology Brochure.

During regular business hours, please visit the Highlands East Municipal Office in Wilberforce for directions to the sites, and to obtain permission to collect.

Permission to Collect forms may be obtained electronically. Download the Waiver of Liability form, fill in completely and email to jvanier [at] highlandseast [dot] ca. Please indicate in your email which of the sites (Desmont and/or Schickler) you wish to visit and what dates you will be visiting. Permission to Collect forms are valid for two consecutive days. Gibson Road does not require a waiver be signed. A signed and dated Permission to Collect form will be emailed back to you.

Alternatively, information may be obtained from the following locations:

Highlands East Information Centre
2786 Essonville Line, Wilberforce
Phone: 705-448-2981 x 432
Open Daily 10am to 4pm, Closed Tuesdays (May to October)

Agnew’s General Store
2248 Loop Road, Wilberforce
Phone: 705-448-2211 
Open Daily 9AM to 9PM (summer hours)

2763 Essonville Line, Wilberforce,
Open Daily

Tamarack Lodge
1003 English Circle, Gooderham
Open Daily from May 1 to November 15


Schickler Fluorite Occurrence
This site was explored for fluorite in the early-to-mid 1900s, and you can still easily find gemmy fluorite in colours ranging from colourless to rose-red, to deep amethyst purple in white calcite on the rock piles. Associated with fluorite in the calcite are hexagonal crystals of red/green apatite, yellow scapolite, buff coloured feldspar, and green pyroxene. The Schickler occurrence is only one potential collecting site of many on the 400 acre Crown property – come prepared to do some exploring!

Desmont Mine (Homer Yellowknife Prospect)
Like so many other properties in the area, this site has been explored for various rare elements in the past, but as was so often the case, nothing of economic potential was found. There are a number of small workings on the property where one can find beautiful and unusual mineral specimens though. It has long been a popular rockhound destination for hexagonal plates of silvery molybdenite, emerald green diopside, and the rare mineral stillwellite (which can be identified as small (~5mm), tabular crystals and coatings with a distinctive maroon-red colour). These, as well as other minerals are found in orange and white calcite near the workings.

Gibsons Road East Occurrence (Titanite Hill)
At this occurrence, you will find part of a large deposit that made this area famous amongst mineral collectors. A series of calcite veins carrying large crystals of gem green apatite, buff coloured feldspar, lustrous brown titanite, and black fluororichterite. Occurrences like this are known from Gooderham (the Bear Lake Diggings) to Wilberforce (Liscombe Mine). This one is very similar to both, but is easily accessible, and the reward is often greater. You will see where other collectors have uncovered parts of these veins, showing you where and how these minerals occur. From there you can pick though what has been left behind, or dig around to find a new vein!

Bear Lake Diggings
Attention: Please Note that the Bear Lake Diggings are no longer open to the public and is now private property.

Greenmantle Farms
As fun as poking around in the woods looking for buried treasure can be, it can also be helpful to get some local advice to point you in the right direction. At Greenmantle Farms you can take a guided tour of some great natural exposures of local minerals, and get some insight into their formation, their importance to the landscape, and if you’re lucky – a nice hot bowl of homemade wild leek soup! Please note that collecting is not permitted at this site. Cameras are welcome, but hammers are not.

For more information, or to arrange a tour, please contact Mark and Sandra Bramham through their website at www.mineraltours.net

Lee Clarke
If you have had a tour of the mineral deposits at Greenmantle Farms or simply an interest in collecting local minerals you may purchase samples of fluororichterite that were found on the George Earle farm in Wilberforce. By phoning Lee Clarke (705-448-2664) you can make an appointment to pick through the various sizes and samples available. Please note that hammers are not welcome.

Yours Outdoors
For a more complete guided package, check out the offerings of Yours Outdoors – a local outdoor experience company. From weekend getaways with guided tours and collecting excursions, to full vacation packages, your host, Barry Martin, will help make sure your Highlands experiences ROCKS!

To book a package, or to customize your own experience, please contact Barry through his website at: www.yoursoutdoors.ca

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