Ontario: The Strange and Interesting. The Search Continues

Fog creeping in

As I continued on my journey to find the strange and interesting I may have found a little creepy. The picture above is Highway 11 near Cochrane. The sun setting with the promise of a beautiful day, a mist had formed over the fields. As I drove, I watched it creep along the ground reaching its fingers across the road, seemingly to reach out to touch me as I drove past. Yes I shivered a little. Lol

It’s coming!!!

I spent a wonderful night in Cochrane at the train station. I woke up to a foggy morning. Watching the train come in and leave to Moosonee on a foggy morning was a pretty cool way to start my day.

Train coming into Cochrane Train Station

Cochrane Ontario, at the top of the province is a great little town. Driving any farther north you need an ice road of which I heard does exist, or take the train. Wouldn’t that be cool and cold to take an ice road. Lol. Cochrane is also home to the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat. When you are in Cochrane you are pretty far north but not far enough to see a Polar bear. Cochrane is four hours south of James Bay which has the most Polar Bears this far south in Ontario. I stopped in for a visit to the Polar Bear Habitat and was delighted by this beautiful little gem.

Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat

Polar Bear at Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat

The Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat currently has three Polar bears. Gunuk, Henry and Inukshuk. The habitat does not breed or capture Polar bears. All the bears that come through here are hurt or broken. The care they provide is rehabilitative. Which just warms my heart. You never get a real sense of the size of these beautiful animals from a picture but seeing it in person they are huge. Averaging 1000 pounds (453 kg) they are massive animals. They are also a little comical. When I took this picture the other Polar bear was making this awful noise like he was hurt. Walking back and forth and looking at the other Polar bear I thought maybe he just wanted to be with them. After a chat with the girls it was discovered that it was in fact that he was getting watermelon and his turn could not come soon enough! Hahaha! Oh my stars. Check out their personalities on their website. I so laughed. How flippen cute!

Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat also allows you to take a walk back in time to the early 1900’s. Heritage Village brings you back in Cochrane’s history to a time of horse and carriage. A walk down main street in this replica 1900’s town is reminiscent of walking into an old western movie. I kind of expected to see John Wayne ride around the corner at any moment. Lol

Heritage Village

I also ran across some interesting. A tree that looked burned stood in a clearing. A sign tacked onto the tree explained its meaning.

A burned Pine tree

In 1916 small fires had begun to grow in the forests of Northern Ontario. When they came together and it grew with devastating effects. It was WWI and with most of the areas men off to war there was very little manpower to fight the fire. It is said hundreds of square miles of forests were burning. This Jackpine burnt tree represents that devastating time. Dating back to 1916 you would have thought, by now, it would be decayed and taken back into the earth. Interestingly it can take over 40 years for a log to decompose, and a “standing dead wood” like this one, it may take up to a 100 years. Why? Because of the resin content in the stumps or “snags” as they call them is so high. Wow that’s kind of neat.

The 49th Parallel

49th Parallel

Longitude starts at the equator and works it’s way both north and south. When I see a sign for the 49th Parallel of the longitude of the earth I think north. Usually I am in northern Ontario and I have come across it in Northern Michigan. But really if I am in southern Manitoba I could also run into it. The 49th parallel is the line for our prairie and western provinces between Canada and the United States. It reminds you that even if the road looks straight it is a little curved.

The Arctic Watershed

Arctic Watershed

Mother nature is truly the queen of strange. I have driven by this landmark many times and everytime I am reminded on how amazing nature can be. At this spot just south of Cochrane on Highway 11 mother nature divides the waters. From this spot all rivers flow to the south to the great lakes. On the otherside of the sign all rivers flow north to the Hudson Bay. It is like there is an invisible line. There actually is. It is a piece of high land that runs over 2250 km in Ontario. An invisible bump that runs a wiggly line guiding the water to where it is supposed to be. Amazing!


Heritage Silver Trail

The town of Cobalt is an old silver mining town. In 1903 Silver was discovered south of Cobalt Lake. Little did they know this tiny discovery would grow into one of the biggest silver mine producing areas in the world. At one point there would be over 100 mines in this small 13 kilometer area. Up to today over one billion ounces of silver has been produced by this community. That’s incredible!

In 2001 the Cobalt Heritage Society with the help of Ontario Ministery of Northern Development and Mines, and our local government created the Heritage Silver Trail that you can follow that takes you back in time when Silver mining was booming. Not only does it take you to old ruins of Silver mills and shows you the equipment they would have used but also take you to places like “The Glory Hole”, a lake that was used to mine silver and to see an adit. Come on along. It was fun.

The trail is a driving trail approximately 6 km long. At each spot there is a parking and a trail to explore. Each stop also had an information board so you knew what you are looking at. We will not do all the 22 sites but I will give you a few of my favorites.

An old mining building

The Glory Hole is the first site on the tour. It is 250 feet from the top to the bottom and runs into the forest for miles. Miners would only use dynamite and their hands to dig out the riches of Silver found here. Across the hole you could see thick wire cable where tin would be hung to keep the miners dry. When you stood on the platform you could feel the cold air coming up from the depths of the hole.

The Glory Hole

Beside the Glory Hole was what was left of a The Townsite Mine. It would have been an impressive building in its time. This site produced over 13,000,000 ounces of silver. A silver nugget weighing 2,614 pounds was produced by this Mine. That is one big nugget!

The Townsite Mine

When I think of ruins I think of falling down block buildings. Mckinley Darragh Mill site gave you just that. This huge set of ruins must have been an immense building in its time. I liked the fact you could go and explore within the ruins. You need to be careful though as it can be loose Stine and falling would not be a good idea. There was also a small trolly track that ran along side the ruins. This would be transporting both silver and the tailings (the remains of the rock after the silver had been extracted) from the mill site.

The McKinley Darragh Mill site

When the sign said adit this way you could not help but follow. What is an adit? It is a shaft that is dug horizontally into the side of a mountain or ridge used for mining. Walking along a beautiful path in the forest you could see the vertical shaft dug for this purpose. The ventilation shaft was located a little farther down the path. When you got close you could feel the air coming out and it was cold. Very cold and with some force as it would move your clothes. You could not stand their long as even on a hot day you would get cold pretty quickly.


Who knew you could mine under a lake? Kerr Lake was drained completely four times from 1913 to 1952. Over 600,00,000 gallons of water amd silt would be removed from the lake. A mine shaft 800 feet into the ground would be dug from the lakes bottom. In 1955 Kerr Lake was allowed to fill again and this time it would stay filled. You can still see the ruins of the old pumping station.

Remains by the lake
What is left behind

Some of the tools and devices that were used to mine silver can be found at the park in town. One of those pieces was a steel cage that the miners got into and were lowered into the ground. Oh that would be a hard no for me. Lol. It would also be used to transport dirt and Rick from the shafts as they were being built.

Cage taking the miners underground

What a great interesting place. It is an all day affair with a mining museum and also a war history museum in town. If you are driving by make this a travel destination on your itinerary. You will be glad you did.

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure. Check in next week as I try my hand at staying at a Wilderness Resort.

See you next week.


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