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Searching for crystals in Calcite Trenches at Bear Lake Diggings, Ontario

Last Updated: 8th Jul 2013

By Michael Adamowicz

Searching for crystals in Calcite Trenches at Bear Lake Diggings, Ontario

By: Michal Adamowicz, rockhound

How you all doing. This article that I got for you is about Bear Lake Diggings, in Tory Hill. For those of you that haven’t heard of this site, it is known for large Apatite crystals in Calcite veins. This site has decent samples of Calcite, Apatite, Hornblende & subspecies, Biotite, minor amounts of Katophorite, Microcline, and Titanite. The list of mineral for this site is more extensive but these are the minerals that stand out the most, I will give a more complete list more into the article. First as always with my articles, the directions.

So you as always will start from Bancroft. You will head south on highway 28 south from Bancroft for 13.1 kilometres until you arrive at highway 118. Turn right onto highway 118. Follow 118 for 22.7 kilometres to Tory Hill where you will turn left onto highway 503 (also known as Furnace Falls Road, don’t ask me why its called that). You will follow highway 503 for about 12.3 kilometres until you arrive at Glamour Lake Road which will be on the right. Turn right onto Glamour Lake Road . Follow Glamour Lake Road for about 4.3 kilometres until you arrive at Madill road on the right. Turn right onto Madill road and follow it for about 2.8 kilometres. At some point the gravel road will end & a “use at own risk” road will continue. The diggings are about 70 meters or so following the risky road. You have two options here. You can risk your car and take the road, or park around the end of the gravel road. After my first experience driving in I decided to park at the gravel road from now on. The rough road is not too bad through most of the way. Most of the way you are driving on bare rock pretty much. But after the road reaches a Y in the road it goes to @%&$. The Y goes right & left, the right side is a logging road, & the left one is the one to the diggings. The left one is what you take. After the Y you will see the rock road will look like it has been mined. Unfortunately collectors extended the Calcite trenches a bit too far and damaged the road, making it dangerous. If your car is a high clearance vehicle, or a Jeep you probably will be fine. But be warned its risky & after it rains the parking is very muddy. Its easy to get stuck. It almost happened to me the first & only time I parked here. When you are near the parking area you should be able to see a large 6 by 4 feet or so sign indicating Bear Lake Diggings. Just follow the trenches from the road to the diggings or just go into the woods behind the sign, you can’t miss the trenches they follow from the road in the woods.

Here is where the gravel road section of Madill road ends & the rough road begins. The red sign is a “use at own risk” sign, the road is more suitable for ATVs. I parked here not to risk my car. If you park here make sure there is enough room for a truck to pass.
At 100% width

So you are now at the Diggings, now what. Well before we go on let me explain to you the trenches a bit. Its not so much as there are trenches as there is one large trench. In actually starts from the road that you follow to get to the parking are. It is the bad section of road that is dug up where the trench begins. Its hard to say how long the trench is but I would guess that the most dug up area is about a 90 feet long. It also continues spar singly in the woods so it could be even longer, but the most explored section is beside the parking lot naturally. The trench looks like a World War I trench with its depth. Collectors have dug up around exposed walls of calcite & they dug to the bottom to retrieve fallen Apatite, Biotite, & Titanite crystals that have fallen into the bottom of the trench during the natural process of erosion by natural acids. Usually the trenches go down into the ground about 2-5 feet, it varies through the trench.

Site Sign.

Here is a picture of a small section of a trench near the parking area.

Here is part of a trench just left of the above image. Can anyone sense scavenging potential here.

Here is the continuation of the trench further left of the above image.
Bear Lake Diggings, view of trenches on the left side

Bear Lake diggings, Monmouth Township, Haliburton County, Ontario, Canada

Alright now lets talk about how to collect here. First you must get a pass before you arrive at this location. You can get a pass at Lakeside Gems, which is about 12 kilometers south on highway 28 from Bancroft. The second location is the Chamber of Commerce. Since you have to go along highway 28 south anyway you might as well stop at Lakeside Gems, they are on the right side if you are going south. It costs $5.00 Canadian per person per day to collect here. You have basically four methods of collecting here.

Method#1: Digging in the Calcite Trenches.
This is probably the most productive method for finding Apatite crystals. You basically enter a trench section & dig down to the bottom of the floor as low as it will go. As you shift the dirt out you look for crystals in the soil and along the walls that you have excavated. This method probably get you about 80% of all of your Apatite crystals. This method unfortunately very tiring & time consuming but produces the most results so it the most worth it. Make sure you have a good shovel, don’t use those weak plastic shovels, you need a good metals one as there are roots in the soil of the trenches. I have retrieved a lot of Apatite fragments, & Katophorite this way. Recently I have retrieved a large Apatite end, so large crystal are still there somewhere. One constant problem with any method here is the mosquitoes. Since the Diggings are in a wooded area mosquitoes are everywhere, and since you will sweat if you dig even your bug spray will sweat out so they will constantly be an annoyance. I have to say that by far they are the biggest problem working in this location. Perhaps coming in the fall when the wretched things die out would be a good idea. I can’t stress this enough, they are a constant annoyance.

Method#2: Chipping at the Calcite Walls.
This method produces some results as crystals of different mineral still occur on the exposed walls. Most Biotite books can be found if you explore the walls, & can be chipped out. Some small Katophorite crystals are located on differed walls & boulders in the trench area. My first Katophorite was found here this way, I chipped it out of a boulders side. Also keep in mind that crystal can we hidden my moss covering the Calcite walls, so if you search around carefully you might find great samples. This method overall produces about 10% of your crystals. It is a good start to any search at this location, but don’t count it as your main searching method.

Method#3: Scavenging.
I know what you are thinking, but this idea is not as bad as it sounds. You would first look around areas that people have recently disturbed and look for discarded samples & dig a bit under the soil for older discarded samples. This method is something that you should de whenever entering this site as there are people that want excellent specimens & they discard those samples that are not ”excellent” by their description. It is an easy what of getting samples & exploring a locality. This produce about 5% of samples as most would be small & are generally easy to find by others.

Method#4. Locating a new Calcite trench in the Diggings Area.
Now this is not really a method since its entirely different then all the methods usually used. You here would try to located a new Calcite trench in the Diggings area. Now this trench might be small only a few feet but it has the potential to have a reserve of untapped crystals. I have seen numerous trenches that people have begun, but as you can imagine they are small. As you can imagine this method has a high degree of failure, but with potential of great rewards. I only mention it here to give you all an idea what is occurring at this site. Few of us would have the time to actually try this. Not to mention finding a vein by the overall depressions in the terrain is very misleading.

Ok, so here are the overall collecting methods. I honestly think that its best to utilize all the three first methods when you are here at the diggings to improve your chances of success here.

Here is a complete list of mineral that can be found here it is from Mindat.

• Annite
• Anorthite
var: Bytownite
• 'Apatite'
• Apatite-(CaF)
• Biotite
• Calcite
• Edenite
• Ferrohornblende
• Fluor-magnesiokatophorite
• Fluororichterite
• Fluorotremolite
• 'Hornblende'
• Katophorite
• 'Lepidomelane'
• Magnesiokatophorite
• 'Marialite-Meionite Series'
• Microcline
• 'Monazite'
• Nioboaeschynite-(Y) (TL)
• Titanite

Here is a summary of this location.

1.) Potential for huge crystals.
2.) Located to other sites, Saranac Mine, Padwell Mine, Essonville Flourorichterite, & all the sites near Wilberforce
3.) Close from car to site. Weather you park near site of on Madil road.
4.) Easy to located site, little chance of getting lost
5.) Multiple search methods can be used.
6.) Abundant Calcite is present.

1.) Insects, Insects, & more Insects. Bug spray is absolutely needed. Mosquito levels are very high.
2.) Fee for collecting.
3.) Can be messy to collect after rains.
4.) Road to site is very rough.
5.) Chance for finding crystal is more based on luck, as the site size is limited & site has been explored for some time.

Here are some sample that I found from this location.

Katophorite with some yellow/green Apatite. This was found digging in the trench.(10.5x7.95.3 cm)
At 100% width

Small Katophorite cluster with Calcite. Chipped out of a boulders side. (6.9x3.9x4cm)
At 100% width

Biotite book with some green Apatite. (9x5x7 cm)
At 100% width

Single terminated Apatite. (5.6x3.2x2.5cm)
At 100% width

Single terminated Apatite crystal with some Calcite. (4.2x0.7x0.8cm)
At 100% width

Green Apatite with Calcite. (12x8.5x8cm)
At 100% width

Large single terminated Hornblende. (8.6x5.1x4.5)
At 100% width

Well that is it overall. This site is one that a lot of potential for large crystals. I have seen Apatite crystals over three feet long from this site. The Princess Sodalite shop had crystals almost a foot long on sale a few weeks ago, so I can assure you that they do exist but they are getting harder & harder to find. Overall this is an OK site, one major down fall of it is the bugs, the fee, & the time consuming method to get crystals here. A small substitute to this location is the Quirk Lake locality on the Musclow-Greenview road. It is smaller but it also has Apatite crystals in Calcite trenches. Theta are also less bugs, no fee, & less tree exposure. But overall Bear Lake is a good site, its worth visiting but prepared to fight bugs & to work. Anyway, thanks for reading.

Rockhound safe & with determination.

Source:, Bear Lake Diggings Mineral List.

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