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My Adventure Looking for Shoreline Copper at Mamainse Point, Ontario

Last Updated: 19th Feb 2018

By Michael Adamowicz

My Adventure Looking for Shoreline Copper at Mamainse Point, Ontario

Greetings Fellow Rockhounds

It has been some time since my last article but I have been longing to write another one so here be it.

It has been years since I was in Mamainse Point but it was an adventure that I have always wanted to share.

Mamainse Point is located a few kilometers north of Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario Canada. It is located along Lake Superior & is accessible through the TransCanada highway that goes through Sault Ste Marie to the south & to Thunder Bay to the North West. I have visited the point three times. Once when I was a child camping in nearby Lake Superior Provincial park, then when I stayed in Bruce Mines & explored the area, & finally the last time when I car camped along the shoreline for a week. I fell in love with the area on my first visit & I always longed to return the rugged shoreline there. This article will be primarily based on my adventure & pursuit of native cooper at the shoreline & some of the mines there.

rugged shoreline with calcite/quartz veins


Superior waves


I took a trip there a few years ago shortly after I bought my new car. I bought my car thinking I would like to one day sleep in the back since it had the room there & testing out its sleeping capacity at the shore of Mamainse Point was my first real trek. My plan was to stay at the Point for a period of a week, but I also had booked camping for 2 night at nearby Pancake Bay Provincial Park to enjoy more amenities versus just me & the car at the shoreline. At the point I would find areas off the highway & spend night in the car there. I would spend the day hiking the shoreline looking for native copper. My plan was to mainly look for copper along the shoreline but I would also visit the Copperpoint mine, Point Aux Mines & a mine near Canada’s first Uranium occurrence; the Ranwick Mine near Alona Bay.

Day 1

On the first day I had to punch through tiredness as I drove over 8 hours to Mamainse Point. I arrived mid-day & I pulled over to one of the many coves where one can spend a night or have a picnic along the shore of beautiful Lake Superior. Unlike my second visit here where as the lake was flat as glass, this time I encountered a windy lake full of waves & white caps. Superiors is like that. A changing mood of calm to stormy in a matter of hours. Superior is an inland freshwater sea so its weather can change quickly with minimal warning. It can be incredibly calm or incredibly rough with raging storms. I arrived to no storm but lots of waves & a cold wind. With not too many hours of the day left I decided that the cove will become my rest stop for the night as well. I would go further up the TransCanada in the morning. To use my hours of the day well I made a quick lunch & got familiar with the area of the point. This is wild car camping. There are no washrooms or amenities, the biggest & only amenity was the TransCanada highway itself. Nothing else. Even cell coverage is very week or gone. The Point is a signal dead zone, so keep that in mind. You might get spotty reception here & there but for the most part do not count on it. The nearest washrooms were at the nearby Trading post. There you have washrooms, supplies, & delicious smoked fish. There are a few houses along the Point but not many. After some exploration I returned to my first cove & decided to explore the shoreline for copper. Might as well get to it. The detector I took with my at the time was a simple bounty hunter that I bought at Canadian Tire, a very simple & basic machine. It will tell there is metal under the coil but little details about what kind or how deep. Going south I probably walked a kilometer to kilometer & half with my machine. I was scanning the rocky outcrops & different veins for any signs of copper within. Though many veins that zigzagged the shoreline looked promising none gave any metallic readings. In frustration I chipped at an unmarked vein to looked promising to be sure it was barren. After some chipping it found it was indeed barren, even if it looked so promising. With it getting close to the end of the day I returned to mu car & made a dinner of smoked fish, canned beans, & cooked rice. Quick by oh so nice. With slightly over an hour till sunset I called it a day. I prepared the back of my car for sleep & then spend the rest of the daylight exploring the north side of the shoreline & looking at pebbles for agate or other rocks to cut. Most of the little coves I explored in my week were pebble & rocky beaches, few were sand beaches. But that’s alright with me. With the setting sun & the cool howling wind I watched that daylight disappear & witnessed the moon rise slowly. The point is mainly light pollution free so on a clear night countless stars can be witnessed. A bit of fine rye kept the chill away as well. The beauty & solidarity of the Point coves cannot be truly expressed. It must be experienced. When you come here you see & feel the lake, its strength & ruggedness. You can easily understand why countless artists chose to have this lake inspire them.

Day 2

On the second day I did my drive to the trading post for some supplies & to use the facilities, as was my usual routine through the week. Heading back I returned to the cove I slept at & I explored the shoreline going north from my spot. After a few hours I called the cove quits & I drove up a few km north on the highway toward the next promising cove & spot to pull over. I stopped here & notices the rock had changed to a conglomerate made up of some large pebbles, resembling concrete. Really interesting look as the shoreline looked much more interesting. I did as the day before & hiked the shoreline looking for veins & using my detector. As the southern shoreline I found nothing interesting except some iron trash, & an old square nail. I figured that the cove might a barren as well I decided to take a break from the shoreline wind & sun. I drove up to what’s left of the CopperCorp mine. My first trip there i only fount some druzy quartz at the dumps. Was hoping for more this time. The drive there was not too long from my cove, under 15 minutes. Driving down the mine road took longer than expected as it was not in the best of shape, I passed a few outcrops along the road that looked interesting. As I drove down the mine road I notice that a new gate was erected there with no trespassing. Last trip there, there was no signs or gates but it seems that access changed this time. So I had to stop there & turn back. On the way back one of the outcrops I passed caught my eye so I stopped over. The rock looked like a mix of calcite with a faint green tinge that looked like cooper oxidation to me. I took out my detector & sure enough I got a signal on the outcrop. With sledge hammer at hand I extracted a few pieces from the outcrop & once no signal was forthcoming I gave the spot up. I extracted some small but nice dendritic looking copper in the calcite. I would need to clean it up at home to see exactly what I got. I was happy with the find, finally I found some copper, & probably dendritic too.

dendritic copper


With the CopperCorp mine section done I headed back to the highway & went back south to another cove that looked promising to my eye. The day was getting short so I prepped for the night. This cove I found was truly a great spot. The pebble beach was bigger than most, & there was even a wild campsite by the end one road with a big rocky fire pit. Blueberries were plentiful around as well along the shore. Its was a really beautiful spot, I spend the rest of the daylight looking for interesting pebbles & picking blueberries for breakfast. I got a fine fire going to roast some sausages I got. This was the most beautiful spot I been at so far. The stars came out on a fully clear but windy night. I must have just stayed & looked up for an hour before I went to sleep. As I looked up at the stars through my sunroof the sound of the waves set me to sleep. Next day I was scheduled to check in & stay two nights at Pancake Bay Provincial Park.

capped CoperCorp shaft, when site was accessible


druzy Quartz


Day 3

Day three was cloudier then the last but there was less wind. Today my plan was to explore the old Ranwick Mine, near to where Canada’s first uranium discovery occurred at Theano Point . The largest ship to sail & sink in the Great Lakes, the Edmund Fitzgerald rests nearby in the depths. The mine was located near Theano Point, east of the highway. It is likely a continuation of the uranium that was found at the point. The mine was a tourist attraction half a century ago. Now it is an abandoned mine like any other. Its main feature was a long adit driven deep into a hillside, nearby to the shore of Lake Superior. What I wanted to see was pitchblende in the walls & perhaps find samples in the dumps. The drive to this location from my cove was longer than most, it is not too far to Wawa from this point. When I arrived to the potential site it took me almost an hour to locate the adit. I missed the heavily overgrown road to the adit be mere feet. Goes to show you that in the thick of the bush it very easily to miss a spot even when you look for it. The mosquitoes here were quite bad. I must have gotten spoiled from being along the bug free shoreline. The adid entrance was partially collapsed with massive thick timbers all around & odd long white mushrooms growing like an albino alien forest. I crawled through the entrance keeping a very watchful eye on the state of the tunnel & ceiling. The entrance was the only sketch spot, once inside I found out that the tunnel was much more water filled then I expected. The water was ice cold & deep to my waist almost, I didn’t bring the gear for that depth so I only choose to explore as far as I could before the water became an issue. It was interesting to be inside & I regret my lack of gear to explore further. Being done with that I headed out & explored the overgrown dumps for radioactive samples, keeping a watchful eye for bears. This site was pretty deep in the bush, with the only point of civilization being the nearby highway. I got lucky, I found one sample on a small matrix piece. Happy with my find I explore further a bit to see if any more samples were forthcoming. No finds here so off to another site.

collapsed adit timbers


looking deep in the adit


uraninite on matrix


My next stop was Point Aux Mines, on a peninsula jutting out into Lake Superior near Alona Bay. This site was a very old copper mine along the shore & it would be the longest hike that I planned on my trip. The hike took me almost an hour deep into the peninsula via an old road that was quite overgrown. There was little evidence of any mining except when I arrived near the shore. It was nice to be finally out of the thick bush gazing upon the lake. The copper veins here were mined out leaving trenches in the shoreline. The trenches were quite water worn so almost looked natural. I tried detecting around here but only found an old square nail. There did not seem to be any cooper left here. Disappointed I headed back to the car & drove to Pancake Bay to spend the night. The park was very nice & featured a long sandy beach, but still had a cold wind there. It was a windy year there it seems. I did not have a site near the water but in the woods. It was nice to enjoy a warm shower at the comfort station, as Superior was quite cold. Off o sleep & more copper hunting next day.

View of Theano Point from Point Aux Mines


clouds over Theano Point


one of the water worn cuts at Point Aux Mines


Day 4

On the 4th day I left the park & drove to another cove just past where I was last. This one was another conglomerate one so could be interesting. I hiked south a few km along the shoreline with little luck & then I went further north. The shoreline keeps on having the same issues, there were calcite veins but no copper. Slightly discouraged I drove north toward an old copper mine that was just beside the highway. Amazingly I was able to find it. I found the shallow shaft with some minor dump rock around. Using the detector I even found some minor copper in the rock. That was a good find.

old shaft


The day was ending I headed back toward the campground. As I drove I quickly spotted a hidden cove as a passed by. The cove came up really quickly & I missed it before going north, but going south I spotted it. It looked promising & since I had little luck at other coves before I figured its worth a shot. I headed back to the campground & off to sleep to detect another day.

Day 5

The 5th day has arrived & I said goodbye to Pancake Bay. The campground was nice but I must say I longed to be back to that campsite cove I found, or any other cove. I left the park & I drove north along the highway toward the hidden cove I spotted on my way down from the old copper mine. There was no parking directly at the cove this time but there some was located a hundred meters or so south where another tight cove resided. I stopped here & I figured that it would be a good idea to hike along the shore from here toward the hidden cove. The weather was as it has been so far, sunny but windy. I was glad that the wind was much less than before so I was able to wear shorts comfortably. I walked along the southern shore first, swinging my detector left & right. I was detecting along as I walked even if nothing was visible. Any carbonate vein I discovered along the way I detected very thoroughly. My detector was very light so its weight after almost a full day of use was not noticeable. I must have searched almost a kilometer of this shoreline with not a single signal. I headed back to the car for lunch & then headed along the north shore toward the hidden cove. I had a feeling that cove might be productive. I must have been only a hundred meters or so before I encountered my first copper rich vein. The vein was odd shaped, zigzagging into the lake & disappearing under the thick bush. The vein appeared to be going in a more or less west to east direction, although was quite hard to tell. I could see it disappear deep into the water with the white smudge of the carbonate material showing. I visually located some of the cooper in the vein. A faint green smudge was showing surrounding a brownish weathered rock. The detector confirmed the find & my excitement grew. The whole time I was out on the shoreline I always carried a small pack of water, food, & a few tools. I brought out my 4lb mallet & chisel & I got to work. The rock in this spot was weathered & cracked & took little effort to break it apart. Inside was a small mass of copper. Nothing amazing y by first shoreline find. I scanned the vein but I found no other signals so I headed further up shore. I also begun to detect the beach more thoroughly in case any float copper could be found. After maybe half an hour I came across to a vein going into a sea cave formation. I noticed green in on eroded section & I visually could see a small piece of cooper sticking out. Regrettably the cooper was so deep in the eroded cave that I could barely touch it with my hands, let alone think about getting a chisel & mallet inside. I took some pictures & tried to follow the vein for any other copper showings. No luck in the vein so I moved on. It was probably barely 50 feet when I encountered the next vein. This one was doing diagonally along the outcrop heading into the water, it was very exposed & being pummeled by the waves. If there was copper there it would be a pain to extract. Searching the vein with no surprise I found multiple pieces of eroded copper sticking out of the vein, right by the waves. This extraction is going to be fun. I scanned the vein for easier material but no such luck. Time to get wet. I took off all my clothing except & shorts & got my hammering to work. Oddly enough this rock was much tougher to break up, perhaps because this vein was much tighter than the previous vein I extracted copper from. It was awkward to chisel here. The waves slamming into me while I tried to get a grip on the steep walled outcrop. I was safe not to slip into the water because there were different rocky outcrops still between me & the deep. The problem was that the waves washed over most & impacted me. Getting me pretty soaked, not the most fun because of the wind. It must have been close to an hour but finally I go my samples. They were small but one had a partial crystal face to my look. It was getting late & time for dinner. I headed back to the car & had more smoked fish, with a Spanish rice & canned corn. Tasty. Watching the time I noticed my daylight was limited. I decided to call it at day & I would spend the night at this cove. The actual cove was barely a sharp crack in the shoreline. It was sharp with jagged rocks being violently hit by the waves. Much more noisy the all my previous spots. There was very little room where I parked till the drop to the water. It looked like no fire tonight. No space for one. After I finally finished dinner & did cleanup I thought it might be a good opportunity to further explore up the shoreline. I merrily hiked up the shoreline in my bare feet, happy in the knowledge that I fund copper & that very likely there would be more copper bearing veins as I walked further north. I was also very excited because that hidden cove I was heading too might be much richer in cooper as well. As I passed my last vein I kept a close watch on all the veins I came upon for signs of copper. There were a few that looked promising but nothing confirmed. I then came across a thin one that had a small piece of eroded copper sticking out. Perfect. I would hit that one first in the morning. The next vein was a big one. It looked to be thicker then most & was extremely eroded near the water looking like a canyon. All along the vein I could see copper sticking out. The mother lode vein. Perhaps it would be good to hit that one first then. I followed then vein as it went up a steep outcrop right by the water, looking into the eroded vein I could see a thick copper leaf sticking out. It was pretty big for me so I was very excited. The issue was that this leaf was so tight in the vein that extraction would very challenging, but not impossible. Would take some work. I left the leaf alone & I climbed up on the outcrop & there was my hidden cove. I would need to hike through some bush to get the other side but I was excited. I could see that copper leaf vein heading into the cove to the other side, & other white veins were there as well. My excitement grew with the possibility of more copper & maybe even floats there. Would be an exciting day tomorrow for sure. Back to the car for the night. I remember falling asleep too more effort that night due to my excitement.

crude underwater copper


crude copper in situ


crude copper in situ


copper in situ, seen underwater


Day 6

On the 6th day I had a breakfast of wild blueberries & oatmeal with nuts. Quick & efficient. After breakfast I put all my gear in the backpack & took my metal detector & I trudged up to the cove to the dig vein I found the day before. It was less windy today & with full sun it was getting already hot. That’s the thing when you sleep in the car, when the sun rises usually so do you. I found the vein less pommeled by the waves. I climbed up the vein & got my mallet & chisel, time to get to hammering. The copper that was exposed in the vein was not the easiest to access. I had to stand almost at a twist trying to hold my chisel & hammer directly down, while trying to keep my balance. The calcite that surrounds the copper was much tougher than expected, not weathered at all. It was hard going but bit by bit I could see the cooper plate being exposed. It was at least 2 inches long so I wanted for sure to expose it. As I chipped deeper it was harder to keep my balanced. There was some musky water at the bottom of the vein that kept splashing me every time I hit the mallet. Didn’t mind it, my goal was getting close. After one final hit my plate was exposed. Victory at last. The plate was almost 3 inches long so I was really happy. My first big copper of the trip. It was a good extraction, really made me work for it. Must have been almost an hour of solid chizzeing. After that run I just had to take a break. Didn’t need a long one, just to get some air & strength back. Had a quick granola bar break & then I headed to the previous vein that I found back south. The vein had little copper crystals still exposed so I got to smash up the rock. Getting the remaining crystals took little time as they seemed to be disseminated irregularly among the vein not connected to a main mass. The vein gave me a few other small thumbnail size copper pieces before all the exposed material was burned out. After this I headed back up the shoreline to the large copper vein I discovered. I had to hike through a bit of bush to get to the other side as going by water around the outcrop would get me & detector soaked. Leaving the bush I came to the top of the outcrop, I would need to hike in a bit more to find a way safely down into the cove. It didn’t take long to find way into the cove, maybe 90 meters of hiking in the bush. Finally I was in the cove I wanted to explore. It was indeed a small cove, thin but long. Deep water in the middle too, but from the top of the outcrop I clearly could see at least three white veins under the water. I had high hopes for this cove due to all the copper bearing veins I found that led into it. As I walked along the exposed floor I noticed just how the low water level in the lake exposed a lot of bedrock. I would need to get back to this bed & look for copper float. I wanted to find a float the entire time before I came to this spot. The look of water worn copper I always was fascinated in. It would be a great addition to collection.

copper thumbnail


I made it across toward the first veins I could see. Along the way though I noticed some very thin veins spidering into the lake. Something caught my eye under the water. There was water worn copper sticking out of the vein. Excited I took a closer look. The little veins had lots of little leafs sticking out, everywhere. Now that was a find. I walked around looking at all the veins, most had some copper showing. Quite rich but small leafs. Would be hard to extract as the veins were solid & most were 1 to 3 feet under the water. Shallow but still hard to extract. I would save these showings till later. I keep on exploring further into the cove to see it any more promising finds were found. I found more veins with little bits of copper, nothing like the big leaf I spotted though. OK so the visual exploration was done so I decided to forgo the chiselling operation & decided to look for float along the shore. With all this copper showings for sure there must be some floats here.

I got my detector out & put it to use. Did not take long before I got a signal. Dug down & I found a can. Nice. Next signal please. Got another signal but this one was strangely choppy. The whole area was a bit choppy that I detected. Time to dig down. I used my hands since the beach was just small pebbles. I dug up something green. Looked like oxidized copper to me. Put it under the detector & that choppy signal I got again. I swung the coil over the area again & still the signal remained. I dug more & kept on getting small copper floats. Finally. They ranged in shape of small twisted leafs to tiny round balls. I was thrilled at the finds, got some nice little thumbnails of floats. Finally that spot was exhausted so I walked further along the cove, heading to the middle. Found another small float showing & dug up a few more small pieces before the spot was exhausted. That looked to be the only spot for float so far. Walking a bit father & begun to detect the exposed shoreline. Didn’t take long since my eye caught some green among the rocks, looking closer its shore looked like a twisted oxidized copper float. This was a nice piece, twists & various edges. This was a great piece, bigger than any thumbnail for sure. I was very pleased, & I eyeballed it too. I call this guy "The Dove". I quickly begun exploring the spot & found a few more pieces, small they were though. Near the end of this search i found another neat copper float, water work & resembling a mass of ribs. Hence i call this guy "The Rib".

"The Dove " copper float


"The Rib " copper float



As I explored the cove thoroughly again no more copper was forthcoming. I went back to the veins & chiselled more copper out of the vein. Got some small pieces but nothing that compared to my big leaf find. With the day being late I headed back to the car for dinner & probably setting up for the night. I found what I wanted in terms of copper from this trip so I was planning to spend the rest of my time relaxing. I made the call & I headed back to my campsite cove south down the highway. I bought firewood at the trading post & set up a nice little fire on the beach. That was a nice little fire that I used to cook sausages. I spend rest of the time enjoying the fire & watching the stars come out. It was a good day.

Day 7

The final full day I had up here I simply spend the time looking for wild blueberries & mushrooms. It has been a dry week so there was not too many mushrooms to be found but I did get some. I was looking for Bolletus mushrooms. They have a spongy underside versus gills & are all no poisonous in Ontario.
I had the luck to only find a few but I was quite happy with them. The soil around this area is very clean so eating them would provide a nutritious meal. I usually cook up these mushrooms very simply; sautéing with butter & a bit of salt. Wild mushrooms have their own flavors that in my opinion you don’t savor unless you eat them with minimal seasoning. I am a purist when it comes to wild mushrooms.

The haul of blueberries was decent too, even though its been dry. It depends on the spot.
I spend the rest of the day exploring the beach & setting up a fire as well. There is something truly relaxing & soothing about having a beach fire. Perhaps it’s the connection with our countless ancestors who had similar fires looking up at the same stars in times past. This was my last night but I was almost sad that I had to leave this place.

Day 8

Today was departure day. I had little to prepare as all my gear was in the car already. After a quick breakfast I looked for more mushrooms & berries. I found just a few to add to my stash but all would be used. My return plan was simple; lots of driving with breaks every few hrs. I was going to drive all the way to Bruce mines & have lunch there. Then next stop was going to be Blind River, where I wanted to pick up some smoked local fish. Then next would be Espanola, then Sudbury, then French River & Parry Sound & then home. I would only hit these stops if I was tired, or needed the washroom. Blind River was the only exception because the smoked fish I had before & I must make a stop there for sure. Was really good fish!

It took me the entire day to get home. It was a trip that I remember very fondly to this day. This is what I chose to share it with you all & hope you enjoyed reading it.

Thanks you for reading

Keep on Rockhounding

Michael Adamowicz




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Comments

Thanks Michael for sharing, almost wish I was there (too cold for me).
Neat shots of the underwater copper occurrence and the copper "rib" - almost good enough to eat !!

Well done

Keith




Keith Compton
23rd Feb 2018 8:35am
Very enjoyable reading Michael thanks for taking us along on your adventure and sharing the photos as well.

If you ever decide to dig some amethyst at the Blue Points Mine in the future be on the look out for strawberries, and chanterelles. PM me before you go for further information.

Good Luck Digging!
John T.

John Truax
25th Feb 2018 3:09pm
Great little read here on Mamainse Point, Michael. Thanks for sharing.
I do question one of your photos however. The photo of "druzy quartz" above the subheader Day 3 looks, at least on my monitor, a lot like prehnite rather than quartz. Might just want to check that. Otherwise, very well done!

Paul Brandes
9th Mar 2018 12:29pm
Thanks Michael. I enjoyed reading your article. You've captured the essence of field collecting. Many hours spent searching without success, then coming across some nice finds. I've travelled through this area many times, but never really had an opportunity to collect there. In the early 70's I was working in mineral exploration in the Sault Ste. Marie- Wawa area and we stopped in at the Ranwick Uranium Mine. It was a tourist stop then. I'm surprised at the condition you found it in. I would have thought the adit would be sealed and properly decommissioned. I would strongly advise against anyone entering mine openings such as these, as there could easily be oxygen-deficient atmosphere present. Being alone there, you could easily get into trouble before you realized there was a problem.

Good luck, looking forward to more articles of your adventures.

Holger Hartmaier
17th Mar 2018 12:44pm
Thanks for sharing - looking forward to your next article

Matt Courville
21st Mar 2018 2:56pm
Michal.........nice job. I always like to look at your photos. Your story reminds me of when I was on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan...

Frank Festa
17th Sep 2018 3:02pm

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