Hiking the Gold Mines Trail
Kejimkujik National Park and Historic Site is a well-known National Park in Nova Scotia, Canada. One of two National Parks in the province, it’s popular with campers (both front country and backcountry). We hiked the Gold Mines trail at the park this summer as well as a few other trails.
The park attracts both campers and day visitors, looking to hike or bike, canoe/kayak, birdwatch, stargaze and enjoy the outdoors.
My family enjoys the many trails available for hiking, and we try to get out a few times each summer to enjoy the park. We hiked the Hemlocks and Hardwoods Trail on a previous visit. Check it out when you’re done following the Gold Mines Trail.
I’ve captured the trail in photos, so enjoy the beauty of the forest and follow along. The trails are marked with information signs, summarized below.
Let’s Get Going
On the drive into the trail parking area, we caught sight of movement in the trees. Deer sightings are common at Kejimkujik. No matter how many you see, it’s always exciting!
The parking area where you’ll find the start of the trail has a picnic table in case you need a break. There’s an outhouse too, just in case.
The first sign is Gold Mines, showing a map of the route and giving the distance/time of the trail. It’s approximately 3km return and will take you about 80 minutes.
Gold is Discovered
Gold was discovered in Kejimkujik in the late 1800s. This sign tells of a man named Jim McGuire who was hiding from the sheriff because he owed money. He was drinking from a stream one day and found a shiny pebble. Turned out to be gold and he was later seen at the general store with gold nuggets to buy supplies. Gold Fever set in and men started coming from all over Nova Scotia to search here for gold, and many found it.
On the next sign, we learn about the rocks here. The grey slabs of rocks are slate, and this indicated to prospectors there was slate bedrock below.
Both slate and quartzite were deposited horizontally, which were then subjected to powerful pressure and folds occurred.
Energy From Trees
The various tree varieties provided energy for the miners. Maple was burned in the cookstove, and oak used in the mine shaft for support due to it being rot-resistant. Birch provided cordwood for the boilers.
A Prospector’s Outfit
Next, we learn about a prospector’s outfit and its simplicity. A pick, pan, kettle, axe, and some food and a pipe. But blankets! Not to be used from April to November, so a man’s reputation wouldn’t be tarnished. Well, I can personally tell you, April and October/ November can be freezing! I can’t imagine this, a different time for sure.
A man named Walter Prest was the exception. He used scientific methods for prospecting and modified his tools. He was successful and respected, and even published a book called ‘The Gold Fields of Nova Scotia: A Prospectors Handbook’.
We now have a better explanation about the quartzite and slate, and how the gold was found. The dark grey blocks of rocks are quartzite and the miner’s called them ‘whin’. From these, the miners knew there was quartzite bedrock below the surface and where it met with the slate would be cracked and fractured. Quartz veins would form and gold was often found here.
Directional signs point you in the right direction while hiking the gold Mines trail.
The Ford Mine
Prospectors figured out that rock outcrops formed ridges in this area, and that these contained quartz veins, and gold. A Caledonia businessman in the area, Nelson F. Douglas, was the first to start up a claim here. After a couple of years of finding nothing, he sold his claims to Charles Ford. The Ford family had 40 claims that they worked until the 1930s.
These photos show the remnants of the mines, with deep holes and trenches. Fenced sections are blocking any steep drops or holes.
When searching for quartz veins, miners dug trenches down to the bedrock (called snake-diggin), following gold specks northward, until the vein was found.
Gold Finally Struck
Walking through this area that the forest is reclaiming, you can still see the pits and trenches that the miners left behind. A man name John McCLare struck gold here in 1922. He’d made a deal with the Fords and obtained 22 claims. 12 years later his son Horace worked in this same pit, which did have some gold, but the vein was too narrow to pay.
As you walk through this section of the trail, it’s a more leisurely time to enjoy the woods and learn a bit of history about this part of the park.
Along with the pits and trenches, there are pieces of equipment the miners would have used, like a boiler, and a rope and pulley system.
You’ll find benches along the way for resting.
A Geologist with Gold in His Veins
Dr. E.R. Faribault, a geologist, started mapping all the gold districts of Nova Scotia in 1882, including this site in Kejimkujik in 1914.
Rich Enough to Stay Poor
We see here a quote from geologist Walter Prest, “something rich enough to keep him poor ever since developing it”. This is in regards to there being gold here, but not enough financial support for development. The following signs tell of the old road used to bring supplies in from Caledonia, and how finally, the dream faded with the onset of World War II. The miners still believed there was ‘big gold’ here to be found, and recounted tales into their old age.
The Old Road | Dreams Fade Slowly
Samples of the steam-powered equipment used at larger mines in other parts of Nova Scotia, where they had more success attracting financial support.
This is me nearing the end of our hike, heading out of the woods!
If the gold mining history doesn’t interest you, the trail provides exercise and gets you outside to enjoy the beauty of the woods!
I love learning historical facts or stories about the places I visit, so for me, hiking the Gold Mines trail was a good experience.