Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: January 2021
Murphys Point is located on Big Rideau Lake and is part of the historic Rideau Waterway. It is also part of the southernmost extension of the Canadian Shield known as the Frontenac Arch, and is home to a range of ecosystems, including forests, meadows and wetlands. Murphys point is open all-year round and offers a variety of activities including 20km of hiking trails and groomed cross-country ski trails in the winter.
We decided to ring in the New Year up at the cabin. Last year we completed the 52 Hike Challenge and went for a hike at least 52 times throughout the year. It was the perfect challenge to get us through a strange year. This year we decided to set a new challenge for ourselves, the Ontario Parks Challenge, where we’ll try to visit as many of Ontario’s provincial parks as we can. News flash: there are over 330 provincial parks in Ontario, so this is quite the ambitious challenge.
What better way to start the year than by visiting a provincial park? On January 1st we made a day trip to Murphys Point, which is located about an hour and a half east of the cabin. We arrived at the park shortly after 10:30a.m. The main road into the park is closed during the winter months, however there are two parking lots that are open all-year round. The first is located at the main ski lot, which is just north of the main gate. The other parking lot is located further south along Country Rd #21 near the Lally Chalet.
We parked at the second parking lot to do some winter hiking. The ground was very icy, which transformed what would normally be rated as an easy trail into something more challenging. We first hiked along the Lally Homestead Trail (900m, rated easy). The Lally family once owned this land for farming from 1881 to the 1970s. There is a short path that loops through a former hayfield and past rocks piled high by the Lally children.
It was a bit unclear where the trail led as the field was marked with stakes as it is often used for cross-country skiing in the winter. We walked through the open field and around the stakes as this part of the path was less icy. The path then leads to a house, which has partially been restored. The Lally Chalet is located next to the house and has a wood stove that is often used by hikers and cross-country skiers to warm-up during the winter.
The path continues through the forest to a lookout over Black Creek Marsh, but the path looked super dicy with all the ice, so we skipped this section and walked back to the parking lot, passing by the foundations of an old barn.
Once we returned to the parking lot, we crossed the road to get to the trailhead for the Silver Queen Mine Trail, which connects with the Beaver Pond Trail to form a slightly larger loop. The Silver Queen Mine Trail leads through an abandoned farmland to a mine and features 11 numbered viewpoints with signs which discuss the history of the mine and geology of the area. From the end of June to Labour Day and fall weekends, the park offers free tours of the mine.
Murphys Point lies on an extension of the Canadian Shield and the landscape in the area is predominately rocky. This presented a major challenge to early settlers who moved in the area. Beginning in the 1850s, farmers started searching their rocky land for apatite (used for fertilizer as it is rich in phosphorus) and mica (good for insulation and is used in windows, lanterns, safety glasses, fire screens and electrical equipment).
In 1903 Rinaldo McConnell discovered veins of mica and apatite in the rocky ridge farther up the trail. He drilled and blasted sheets of mica out of the rock and started the Silver Queen Mine. The Silver Queen Mine covers 12 to 15 acres and consists of several holes and rock piles, buildings, test pits and machinery.
The mine started as an open pit mine at the top of the ridge. After drilling and blasting their way down into the ridge, the miners then followed veins of mica and apatite. One such vein led to this side of the ridge and eventually formed an entrance into the mine.
To get access to the veins of mica and apatite, much of the surrounding rock had to be blasted and removed. By 1906, steam power made the job of hoisting heavy ore buckets much easier. The hoist’s rotating boom swung buckets to the side of the pit, where they were dumped onto ore wagons or waste piles.
The geology didn’t allow for large-scale mining. It became well known that the mineral deposits in the area were considered unreliable and unpredictable. Veins of mica and apatite often pinched off at a shallow depth without warning, making many mining operations short-lived.
The path then leads down to the bunkhouse, which is where miners could eat and sleep during their work-week. The original bunkhouse was abandoned when the Eastern Ontario mica industry slumped after 1920 when Madagascar entered the market with cheaper labour.
The numbered signs end at one last pit, a small open quarry that was worked for feldspar, a cloudy white mineral, which was also mined at the Silver Queen. It was used mostly in manufacturing pottery, porcelain and enamelware, as well as abrasive soaps and washing compounds. The pit definitely looked cloudy white, but that was likely because of the ice.
From here we followed the Beaver Pond Trail (1km, rated easy) as an alternate route back to the parking lot. The trail winds through the forest and passes the shore of a flooded wetland. The path was icy and progress was slow.
While we initially planned to go for a few more hikes in the park, the conditions on the trails were a bit treacherous with all the ice. When we returned to the parking lot, we decided to just head back to the cabin.
My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here
47 thoughts on “Murphys Point Provincial Park”
A lot of history in this place to be sure. Too bad about the slippery trails. We bought ice cleats from MEC a few years ago to help us stay shiny side up. And this year, we opted to get some Olang winter boots with ice cleats built in. They are not perfect on the highly polished street ice, but help us get a grip everywhere else and when you don’t need the cleats, you can just swing them back into the boot. Even with the cleats in, the soles seem to have a better grip and the boots are rated to -30. Sorry if this sounds like an ad, but they are great boots. Thanks for sharing your hikes. Stay well. Allan
I’ve been contemplating whether I should buy microspikes or ice cleats for awhile. They would have definitely come in handy during this hike, along with a few others that we’ve done this month. They seem less bulky than snowshoes too. They seem like a reasonable purchase considering how much hiking we do. Safety should come first after all.
This hike had a lot of interesting history. Good luck with the 330 or so provincial parks.
I’ve always enjoyed it when parks have storyboards or signs that provide more history of the area. It’s been neat to learn more of the history of my home province. And thanks, this Ontario Parks Challenge is quite ambitious, and I doubt we’ll be able to visit even half of them, but we’ll see!
You guys need some microspikes for all that ice! They make winter hiking a breeze. Also, what a fun challenge… I’m looking forward to learning all about Ontario’s provincial parks this year!
For sure, I have regrets about not buying some earlier. We just assumed there would be lots of snow here and we could use our snowshoes instead. For the amount of hiking we do, we should definitely invest in a pair of microspikes. So far we’re off to a good start with our Ontario Parks Challenge. The reservation window has started to open up and oh wow is the competition fierce to book a campsite these days. Seems like everyone has the same idea.
I love the history in this park! I can’t believe there are 330 provincial parks…you are going to be very busy! And yes, get microspikes for the ice. They’re a little expensive up front but a good pair will last you a long time and be super grippy on ice. Diana & I both have Kahtoolas which is a proven brand, but I have another friend who has a pair made by a Canadian company that she loves (sorry I can’t remember the name, but I could find out for you!)
Ontario Parks does a pretty great job of having storyboards and signs that provide more history of each of the parks, including fun facts like how certain parks are named, the flora and fauna of the area, information about early settlers and the geology of the area. There are definitely a lot of provincial parks here and I doubt we’ll be able to visit even half of them. But it’s nice to have a challenge and goal to work towards. And yes, will definitely need to invest in a pair of microspikes considering how much hiking we do. The Canadian company you might be trying to think of could be MEC. That’s where we get most of our outdoor gear from.
Great vicarious hike – thanks! Lots of history in this area. Very enjoyable read and photos.
Thanks for your kind words. I’ve come to appreciate all the signs at trailheads or along the trails that provide more information about the history of the park. It’s a neat way to learn more about the area. I’d love to come back to Murphys Point later in the year to check out some of the remaining hikes and go on a tour of the mine.
Good luck on your Ontario Parks Challenge! Looking forward to seeing more 🙂
Thanks! It’s an ambitious goal and I doubt we’ll even visit half of the provincial parks in Ontario, but it’s nice to have something to work towards.
Definitely! I have never heard of anywhere having that many parks before either
Ontario doesn’t have many national parks and the ones that we do have are quite small (unlike Alberta). So instead we have more provincial parks. There’s clearly a high demand for them given the pandemic and I hope there are plans to expand existing parks or set aside more land to create new ones.
That’s good about Ontario expanding. That’s the opposite of what’s happening in Alberta but hopefully enough people fight for the parks here!
Fingers crossed. This past year has really demonstrated how in-demand parks and green spaces are. Reserving campsites has become cut-throat as that’s one of the few “travel” options available these days.
Oh yeah. Camping reservation is definitely a bear in popular places. I’m crossing my fingers too! I moved here, heard the parks were in danger and went on a social media awareness kick about it. There’s only so much I can do as a new expat. Still, I REALLY want to see Alberta’s parks and I want to do my part to save them!
Agreed. As much as it’s great to see that the parks are being used, it’s a bit concerning to see the impact of so many visitors. Parks Canada usually opens up reservations on Jan 1st, but they’ve delayed it this year until April. I’m planning on staying away from the national parks in Ontario this year and instead focus on the provincial ones.
Yeah. That’s been a problem in Yosemite too. That’s a good idea to stick to provincial parks 👍
Reserving campsites at Yosemite was competitive even before the pandemic. I heard that now you have to make a reservation just to enter the park because that’s how busy it’s become. That’s crazy.
I didn’t hear about making a reservation to enter. Must be a pandemic measure. I know their reservations for accommodation have to be done at least a year in advance. I used to get a motel in Merced and drive in for the day. Worked just fine!
Yes, having to make a reservation to enter Yosemite is a new measure that was introduced during the pandemic. I’m not sure if it’s for the entire year or just during the busy periods (like the summer). I have never been to Yosemite, but would love to someday. The hiking there looks incredible. Good to know that you should book your accommodations at least a year in advance. That’s crazy!
Well, actually, my Mum used to work at Yosemite and she said it can now be busy all year round. I definitely recommend getting accommodation in Merced and just driving in. I don’t recommend getting accommodation in the park anymore. We were planning to go to Yosemite during January once, and then I got appendicitis. So, it’s not always good to plan a year in advance. I’m glad we didn’t get accommodation then or we would have had to cancel
Who would have thought that Yosemite would be busy even during the winter?! I guess the landscape probably looks gorgeous covered in snow. It’s always tough planning a trip so far in advance because who knows what the future holds, but at the same time, sometimes that’s the only way to guarantee you can visit and get accommodations. I hope travel isn’t like that once the pandemic becomes more under control.
Well, Californians like going up to the “snow country” for vacation. That can include Lake Tahoe too. I did manage to get a White Christmas at Yosemite and yes, it is gorgeous! I agree. That’s the reason my parents and I would get accommodation in Merced and just drive in. Every Californian who loves Yosemite knows that trick. I hope travel isn’t bad when the pandemic eases too
I’ve looked up pictures of Yosemite in the winter and it looks beautiful. How lucky that you were able to celebrate Christmas at Yosemite and that it snowed. I would love to take a roadtrip through California and just visit all the various national parks along the way. And thanks for the tip about getting accommodations and Merced and just driving in. I just can’t wait for the pandemic to be over, but for now, I’ll just have to continue exploring more of Ontario.
It was beautiful! That was also my one experience of driving in the snow. I do recommend driving there when it is snowy. One thing though is there are certain roads where you’re required to have chains. I know people from snowy climates scoff when they see that, but the fact of the matter is Californians don’t know how to drive in the snow and they are rather reckless. And you’re welcome! I tell that tip to everyone I know. Californians have figured things like that out. I hope you have fun exploring Ontario though
Good to know. Hope you’re having fun exploring Calgary! Looking forward to reading more about your experiences living there. Take care.
I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences too! 😊
That is a wonderful challenge you’ve set for yourselves this year! There are 365 days in 2021 so you can do the 330 parks easily. You get 35 cheat days to spare!!! I’m looking forward to following along on your journey!!!
Ha! I like your optimism. I doubt we’ll be able to visit even half of the provincial parks in Ontario this year, but I’m hoping to visit most of the parks that have a patch / sticker. I’m motivated to try to collect them all!
It’s something you can do over the span of a few years. I’m still shocked there are that many!
For sure. We can always turn this into a two-year challenge if COVID-19 is still a pandemic next year (hopefully not though). About half of the provincial parks are non-operating though and don’t have many (or any) facilities or activities. I’m totally prioritizing the ones with park crests though 🙂
Good idea to prioritize the crests! Do you have a rough list and sequence of visits already drafted?
I sure do. It’s hard to be spontaneous when it comes to camping this year given how popular the parks have become. We’re planning on taking a couple of big road trips this summer, including a two week trip across Northern Ontario. We’re also planning to do some camping in the off-season. We tried winter camping at MacGregor Point a few weeks ago, which was an interesting experience.
You are on a continuous go, for sure!! Good for you🙂
We don’t have much of a social life these days because of the pandemic, so it’s nice to have something to look forward to on the weekends. I also really enjoy trip planning, so it’s been fun mapping out all the parks and strategizing which ones to visit in the winter vs summer or fall (spring is an automatic no because of the mosquitoes).
I would not have imagined that there were so many provincial parks, good luck! I appreciated your historical explanations and the log house photo, it’s interesting to know more about what was done before us.
Thanks. It’s surprising how many provincial parks there are in Ontario. Many of them are non-operating parks though and don’t offer many (or any) facilities or activities. I imagine many of the parks are going to be busy this summer as camping is pretty much one of the few travel options available. Goes to show how important these parks are and perhaps there is a greater need to create more.
It may also be one of the few options available to preserve a house of interest or a special view of the developer’s appetite, there is such pressure on the real estate market, you know it well 🙂
Ha, do I ever. Seems like everyone wants to buy a house these days and there clearly isn’t enough inventory. Despite that, I really do hope there are considerations to expand existing parks or create new ones to better protect a piece of Ontario’s history and historic buildings.
Looks really nice and I really like to see all this history of this trail.
I look forward to the next posts.
Thanks for your kind words. It’s too bad the trails were icy, but it was neat learning more about the history of the area while hiking along some of the trails. I’d like to return in the summer to explore more of the park and perhaps go on a tour of the mine.
So much history! And I think it looks even more beautiful with a little dusting of snow 🙂
I’ve come to appreciate parks that have storyboards and signs that provide more information about the history and geology of the area. The snow always makes the trails look more beautiful in the winter, but it can make the path more icy and slippery.
This looks so interesting and it’s great that you can go here in January – just a little snow!
For sure, it’s great that some of the parks here are open all-year round. There’s clearly a high demand for them, even in the winter. Murphys Point generally has groomed cross-country ski trails and designated trails for snowshoeing in the winter, but there wasn’t much snow for either when we visited.