From heavy industry to natural wonder – The Mine Loop Trail

As part of the ongoing Amazing Places Project by the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve (FABR), the Mine Loop Trail at Gould Lake Conservation Area was designated as one of ten Amazing Places.

The FABR is one of four UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) biosphere reserves in Ontario, and is also one of three chosen to participate in the Amazing Places pilot project, which was created to highlight specific places that shape the ecological and cultural landscapes of a community.

A total of 54 nominations were received, and 10 were selected from that field. The one most pertinent to the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority (CRCA) is the Mine Loop on our Gould Lake property.

Nominations for the next 10 sites for the FABR are underway and are open until Sept. 31. To nomination your own ‘amazing place’ visit The 10 places selected for 2016 will be announced on Oct. 15.

As part of the FABR Amazing Places promotional program, the CRCA is hosting an Open Trails Day that will be held at Gould Lake Conservation Area on Saturday, Aug. 22, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visitors will have free access to the Conservation Area and have a chance to hike the Mine Loop with many other enthusiasts. Enjoy the day outdoors with your family at the beach, have a picnic lunch, rent a canoe or kayak or bring your own to launch from our dock.

So why is it called the Mine Loop?

minersAt the height of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, Eastern Ontario was one of the mica mining capitals of the world. The area around Gould Lake in particular became an integral site for the mining industry as a whole from 1870 up until 1910.

Mica is a shiny silicate mineral found in crystals or in sheets of thin, nearly transparent layers. Mica was used in creating thermal glass for lanterns, but mostly it was used to make electrical insulators. It had to be blasted out of the rock and sent to be split at trimming factories that had been constructed in and around Kingston. It is believed that much of the material was sent to Kent Bros. on Brock Street.

The mica that came out of the Gould Lake area was called phlogopite or ‘amber’ mica that has turned greyish green because of contact with the granite in the area. The world’s largest documented single crystal of mica was found in the Gould Lake area, weighing in at an impressive 330 tonnes.mica

In the late 1860s and early 1870s, phosphate was the original material that was mined for, primarily by Snider & Freeman of Perth. When the firm of McClatchey and Hayden of Belleville took over in 1901, they switched to mica mining. But they only held the property for a year before it was acquired by J.W. Trousdale of Sydenham.

It was a successful operation and was worked steadily until a flood irreparably damaged the main shaft in 1913. That shaft, which was more than 100 feet deep, can still be seen today along the Mine Loop trail, part of which follows an old mining road. Several smaller pits also dot the property and an old steel boiler has been repurposed into part of a bridge on the trail.

Overall, from 1886 to 1920, Canada was the world’s top supplier of amber mica, but the discovery of cheaper sources of mica in other parts of the world brought the era of mica mining to an end quite rapidly in this area.

Starting in 1967 the Cataraqui Region Conservation Area began its process of acquiring the land from the then Loughborough Township as well as neighbouring private landowners, completing what would become the Gould Lake Conservation Area we see today by 1972.

Besides the cultural significance of the Mine Loop due its relationship to the industrial past of this part of Canada, the Mine Loop also offers a spectacular nature experience. It is nestled into 589 hectares of wilderness on the southern fringe of the Canadian Shield, which provides a rich habitat for plants and wildlife.

The wetlands, woods and shoreline areas of the property provide excellent opportunities for nature appreciation and recreation. More specifically, the Mine Loop features a number of high ridges that offer spectacular views of Gould Lake.

The Mine Loop also connects with the Rideau Trail, which spans 387 km from Kingston to Ottawa. While traversing the Mine Loop, be aware that you will still be able to see mica in the rock faces or the trail’s edge.

For more information on Gould Lake CA, visit

For more information on the FABR and the Amazing Places program, visit