Lake Superior Agate Search Adventure
The Adventure Continues

We had a super relaxing night off - sitting by our campfire and eating pasta... watching the stars come out and playing with the dogs that lived just down the street from our cabin. It was really nice.

On Saturday we got up early and rushed out the door to our favorite beach (it's about a 10 minute drive towards Sault St. Marie).. (I can't remember the official name on the map at the moment but I think it's  Mica Bay). 

A bit of history on the Mica Bay area: Mica bay and Pointe aux Mines were the sites of early prospecting for copper.  Later, the occurrences were rediscovered when pitchblend veins were found associated with Keweenawan diabase contacts.  No production resulted from these showings.

Keweenawan rock formations on the north shore of lake superior ontarioMica bay has what is called the Keweenawan volcanic rock formations in it.

The Keweenawan are principally lava flows of basic or basaltic composition with vesicles (or gas cavities) that have been filled with minerals such as agate, amethystine quartz, calcite, chlorite, dataloite, epidote, prehnite, thomsite and zeolites. These are really pretty when you see them up close - as you drive past them on  Highway 17 they look kind of reddish and you don't see the inclusions.

You can see some of the calcite and quartz veins in the rock that I'm standing on in this picture.  This entire area has the most amazing rocks in it!  It was extremely wonderful to be able to hunt for rocks in areas that were previously under water (the water was very low this spring).  We looked everywhere for Agates! I must have moved about a thousand rocks and sat down in hundreds of locations searching.  I even took off my shoes and socks and stood in the water to move more stones..  Sadly enough, not a single Agate wanted to come home with us.

Mica Bay underwater rock formations looking for agates on Lake superior
Mica Bay rock formations
These are under the water

Mica bay rock hounding in Northern Ontario
Normally this is all under water.

Ice formations on the north shore of lake superior during the spring months  

For the first time ever, we were able to walk the entire East shore of Mica Bay and around the corner.

As we headed more East (after going over quite a large lava rock and down another) we stumbled across this incredible and majestic scene!

Yes that's ICE on the shore! There were some areas of the shore that still had huge ice built up (all the rest of water is open by the way and there are boats on the lake). 

That's Rob and Treble (our dog) standing next to an ice build up. It's pretty strange to be out in a T-shirt and be standing next to these icy giants!   The sound was incredible as we walked past them.

Just a bit further down this beach we stumbled upon a fabulous find. I was walking towards the shoreline (thinking that I had spotted a REALLY big Lake Superior Agate winking at me near the edge of the rocks) I reached down, only to have the rock I was looking at roll and crush my thumb between it and another rock... OUCH! I screeched, and tried to stand up.. only slipping on another pile of rocks and landing flat on my butt on another pile of rocks. As I sat there nursing a throbbing purple thumb (not broken - thank goodness), I took a look at where I was sitting and found myself in the center of a treasure pile of Hematite and Jasper stones.  They were the most amazing pieces! Rich powerful blacks with intense red banding! What a find!!

As I sat there in awe, watching the waves roll in near me (knowing that these stones were only recently hid by layers of ice and before that, many feet of water.. I got to thinking of Mishi Peshu - the great underwater lynx like creature who lives in the depths of Gitchigumi (Lake Superior).

A bit of history on this:

Mishi Peshu is the ultimate metaphor that represents the power, mystery and innate danger that comes from these sacred waters. With razor like spikes on his back, the face of a lynx or panther, and the body of a sea serpent, this creature demanded respect. The Anishinabe offered tobacco and prayer to the creature spirit before they embarked out onto the waters in their canoes. The calm waters of Lake Superior can be quickly transformed into raging squalls and huge waves from the northern, north-eastern, and north-western gales that often suddenly crop up. These gales sweep over the open water, quickly picking up momentum and causing huge waves, some up to 40 feet high.

A picture of Mishi Peshu is found at Agawa Bay, Lake Superior National Park, in northern Ontario, north of Sault Ste. Marie. The Midewiwin Society claimed in 1850 that this pictograph was painted by an Anishinabe shaman, and represents a heroic 4 day crossing of Lake Superior by a war party of five canoes. The author is believed to be a tribal shaman named Myeengun which means "Wolf." The images are painted using red ochre, a pigment made from the iron ore called hematite, mixed with clay minerals. This is the most famous rock art painting in Canada, according to National Collection Archive sources.

As I sat there nursing my sore thumb, I started to wonder about the Great Spirit in the lake and the wonderful treasures that had shown up where I least expected them to. Even Rob was in awe over this find. The stones I "stumbled upon" were the stones that were used (all those years ago) to paint these ancient cave paintings - it was crushed and the residue inside was used on the rocks). I spent hours with the red ocher colours on my fingers after picking some of these stones.

You can't go very much farther down this shorline as it ends up in someone's front yard.

Rock hunting hematite in Ontario on the north shore of lake superior
That's me, holding my sore thumb and sitting on the stone that looked like an Agate from a distance). I've got a chunk of Hematite Jasper in my hand about the size of a baseball. Yes I'm smiling but it's more like:
"Ow.. hurry up.. take the picture"


We popped back to the cabin to pick up supplies and then headed up to Wawa for lunch. A quick tour around town, a Subway sandwich and we were back on the road again.

We stopped and poked around a few glamorous rock cuts on the highway (don't look down or you'll step in someone else's garbage) and picked up some really interesting shale type rocks for our collection).

Next stop - Gargantua provincial park.  When you pull into the road, you'll see a warning sign that lets you know that there are 14km of rough winding single lane roads ahead. Don't take that lightly...most of the drive in was single lane traffic only. We drive a huge 4 x 4 dodge (when we go rock hounding) so there was little room for anyone else coming the other direction. Luckily we only passed by one other truck - but I had to get out and move TREES out of the way so we could pass through. Now as I understand, these roads are being worked up but they are still rough. (This part of the park is left open during the off season - that's why we were able to go in).

There are miles and miles and miles of beautiful and well hidden scenery. It is a rough stop to get into so there were only a few folks there when we arrived (some were set up for camping on the shore).  The rocks range from pebbles to large boulders in incredible colours, shapes and sizes.

Gargantua provincial park northern ontario
That's Rob pointing at something in the water
I'm not sure what he was looking at.

We spent the next few hours poking around lots of other beaches and finding little gem treasures here and there.

My greatest tool this year was a plastic water bottle that I carried around everywhere I went.  Instead of running back and forth to the water every few minutes, I was able to really see the rocks I was picking through by simply giving them a quick shot of water.
old ladys bay in northern ontario lake superior

Of course, what would a rock hounding trip be if we didn't take a bit of time to walk Old Woman's (or Old Lady's) Bay?  We spent about an hour sitting and walking the beach finding some fabulous pieces of Olivine and Jasper.  We also brought home a nice sized back of tiny stones for our fish tank.  The colours are simply amazing!

Well... did Rob and I find any Agates this trip? I'm sorry to say... no, we didn't.

This trip was all about the Hematite and the Jasper that kept being found under our shoes.

Stay tuned... you never know where we'll be heading to next!

A stop in Katherine Cove on the North shore of Lake Superior
found us sitting on these rocks for a while:
Katherine cove on north lake superior shoreline


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