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For an activity that really rocks, try recreational geology, where you can search for fossils, gems, and minerals and learn about the rich geological heritage and culture that’s influenced Ontario’s Highlands. Recreational geology can take you from a gem and mineral museum to the great outdoors where you can uncover your own discoveries on a guided tour. Visit Bancroft, the Mineral Capital of Canada and go on a geologist-led collecting trip or stop in at Eganville, the Ordovician Fossil Capital of Canada to take a closer look at ancient sea creature fossils preserved in time.

Recreational Geology Publications

Want to learn more about the heritage-rich activity known as recreational geology? The following publications have comprehensive information and

Geology and Scenery, Peterborough, Bancroft and Madoc Area by D.F. Hewitt of the Ontario Geological Survey
Rocks and Minerals of Ontario by D.F. Hewitt and E.B. Freeman
Rocks and Minerals for the Collector by Anne Sabina
A letter discussing the origin and development of the Perth Museum, written by the 1936 curator the Honourable Archibald Campbell
A Guide to Rock and Mineral Hunting in Nova Scotia – Don’t let the title fool you: this guide has great information on how to get started in recreational geology

Types of Rocks and Minerals

Ontario’s Highlands really are rocking with more than 300 types of minerals found in the region. While visiting a museum or looking at the rock surface below your feet on a recreational geology tour, you’ll find anything from apatite and calcite, to quartz and sodalite. For a more detailed list of what minerals and gems can be found in each of the sub regions in Ontario’s Highlands, check out the links below from the mineral and locality database.


Recreational Geology Activities

Recreational geology appeals to many different types of people because the activities related to this pastime are so diverse. While most people think of outdoor mineral and gem hunting excursions when they think of recreational geology, adventurers at heart can also take part in the fun by visiting museums, shopping gemstone jewellery, and simply taking in nature from one of the region’s provincial parks. Ontario’s Highlands is home to several mines that were very active in their production days, including the Richardson gold mine, Coe Hill gold mine, and Marmora iron mine. Today you can tour these areas and pan for gold or take in breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

For those who want to get their hands dirty and experience recreational geology in an interactive fashion, there are mine collecting tours and guidebooks, some of which can be found by contacting the Bancroft & District Chamber of Commerce or Yours Outdoors.

For more excursion ideas, visit the Recreational Geology section of our website for day trips broken down by area. We’ve also listed a few ideas here:

Indian Point/Mount Martin trail – Hike this rocky trail for a bird’s eye view of the Laurentian Mountains and keep your eyes peeled for ancient artifacts along the way
Perth Civitan Park – View the collection of Precambrian rocks on display
Bear Lake Diggings, Tory Hill – The site is known for large apatite crystals in calcite veins
CN Rock Dump, Bancroft – Material was transported from the Golding-Keene Quarry for construction of the railway that used to run through Bancroft
Beryl Pit, Renfrew County – Famous for aquamarine gem rough and crystals; a fee for collecting site
Rose quartz pit, Combermere – A collecting site subject to fees; by appointment only
North Burgess Heritage Mica Festival – Visit the Friends of Murphys Point for information about this festival that typically takes place in the summer
Frost Centre Geomorphology Hike – A 3-kilometre self-guided hike through scenic lake and upcountry of the Haliburton Highlands
Egan Chutes Provincial Park – Contains several mines and former collecting sites

Rockhounding with Kids

Kids love to explore and get their hands dirty, which is why makes rockhounding is such a hit with families. Grab yourself an old shoebox to start collecting minerals and rocks and pick up a guidebook to help you and your family identify your findings. For more information, visit this article about Getting Kids into Rockhounding. Take a look at this video of a three-year old rockhound searching for her own hidden treasures!

Bancroft’s Rockhound Gemboree

Rockhound Gemboree in Bancroft is the place to meet other collectors, find gem and mineral specimens, and pick up recreational geography supplies. People come from all over the world to celebrate rockhounding and 2013 will mark the gemboree’s 50th year. See what people are saying about the 48th Rockhound Gemboree!

Also be sure to check out these Bancroft TV rockhounding videos that cover topics such as panning for gold, collecting at Bear Lake Diggings, and more.

About Rockhounding

Rockhounds are essentially amateur mineralogists who enjoy collecting rocks and minerals. Anyone can be a rockhound and many people are drawn to this hobby for the fun of collecting, the thrill of hunting, and the pride in showing others their collections. With a few simple tools such as a chisel, hammer, and a notebook, you too can join rockhounds who come to Ontario’s Highlands to hunt for hidden treasures. Take a look at the links below for more information on how to become a rockhound.

Rockhounding: In search of earth’s treasures (PDF) – Helpful rockhounding info from British Columbia’s Ministry of Energy and Mines
Mineral Collecting Guide, Ontario Canada – About mineral collecting or “rockhounding” in Ontario

About Fossils (Palaeontology)

More than 500 million years ago, the Bonnechere Caves existed as a tropical sea full of exotic and now extinct species. Today, the caves contain entombed fossils of coral and sea creatures such as cephalopods, gastropods, pelecypods, and more.

Take a look at this Bonnechere Museum video about fossil hunting in Eganville and if you like what you see, visit the Bonnechere Caves on your next trip to Ontario’s Highlands.

Mining Heritage, Algonquin Cultural Centre

At the Algonquin Cultural Centre, you can view stone artifacts that have been found in the Algonquin Territory. Some items were used for hunting and fishing while others were made for leatherwork, food preparation, and spiritual purposes. You’ll be interested to see the many different and innovative ways rocks were used to help make everyday processes easier during a time that people didn’t have the luxuries and technologies we have today.

Recreational Geology Attractions

From shopping to hiking to perusing a museum, many recreational geology attractions exist throughout Ontario’s Highlands. In Haliburton, you can take a personal tour of an undisturbed mineral deposit at Greenmantle Farm or go on a geocaching treasure hunt near Wilberforce. The district of Bancroft hosts the annual Rockhound Gemboree and offers unique shopping at the Princess Sodalite Mine Rock Shop. If you’re near the Land O’Lakes area, pop into Bon Echo Provincial Park to see ancient pictographs all along Mazinaw Rock.

For more recreational geology attractions available during your stay, visit these community and district websites:


Greenmantle Farm – Take a guided eco-tour that features minerals such as fluorrichterite, apatite, orthoclase, and quartz
Lochlin Esker – A winding, narrow ridge of gravel and sand deposited by a stream flowing on or within a retreating glacial sheet
Wilberforce, geocaching capital of Canada – Explore the natural beauty of the area and enjoy treasure hunting at its best
Haliburton Rocks, Yours Outdoors – Explore the rich mineral deposits, unique geological features, and rugged landscapes


Rockhound Gemboree – Canada’s largest gem and mineral show, bringing together more than 100 dealers of fine mineral specimens, gemstone jewellery, and lapidary supplies
Bancroft Mineral Museum Display – Focuses on mineral heritage in the region and mineral collecting with mineral guidebooks for purchase
Coe Hill Gold – Visit for gemstone and gold panning and rock collecting
Princess Sodalite Mine Rock Shop – View local and worldwide mineral and fossil specimens and shop gemstone jewellery, rock crafts, and gifts


Marmoraton Iron Mine – Come and explore the area, where underground streams and rainfall have filled this abandoned, open pit mine with water
Heritage Tour – Visit mineral rich heritage sites in ComfortCountry

Ottawa Valley

Aqua Rose Gems and Minerals – Located near Quadville, visit to collect aquamarine and rose quartz gems and minerals
Bonnechere Caves – Located near Eganville explore these caves which used to be the bottom of a tropical sea 500 million ears ago and are full or preserved sea fossils
Bonnechere Museum – See Precambrian rocks, sea fossils, and Ordovician limestone
School House Museum, Deep River – View unique collections of artifacts and photographs dating back to the 1800s
Bonnechere Provincial Park – Archaeological activities, guided hikes, and children’s programs
Algonquin Way Cultural Centre – Stone artifacts include adzes, cobbles, point fragments, pottery, wedges, and more
Wilno’s Shrine Hill Lookout – For a spectacular view of the surrounding hills, forest, and lakes

Land O’Lakes

Bon Echo Provincial Park – See the largest visible collection of pictographs in Canada painted on the surface of Mazinaw Rock
Sharbot Lake Provincial Park – Hike through some of the region’s rocky past

Lanark County

Metcalfe Goeoheritage Park – A unique interpretive site focused on local geo-heritage
Tatlock Quarry – View the gleaming white bedrock of Lanark from the observation area
Murphys Point Provincial Park – Visit the Lally Homestead and Silver Queen Mine

Recreational Geology Resources

Location: 1247 Fourth Chute Rd, Eganville

Cave Exploring

(613) 628-2283
Location: 118 Durham St N. Box 391, Madoc

Sell 10k, 14k and Sterling silver coloured gemstone jewelry. Gem-cutter and Graduate Gemologist (GG GIA) on premises. Loose gemstones and mineral specimens sold. Faceting and Gemology lessons/seminars available. Gem and Mineral ID service. (Raman spec.

(613) 473-2455
Location: 2623 Harmony Rd., Belleville

Featuring guided tours of Ontario's largest natural cavern, people from near and far are now discovering the adventure and history of this natural wonder.

(613) 919-5686
Location: 1344 Barry Line R.R.# 1, Haliburton

Yours Outdoors offere unique experiences in art, culture, and nature in the Haliburton Highlands. Our single and multiday packages are original, engaging, enlightening, and will connect you with communities and the great outdoors

(705) 754-3436


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