The Dorset Trail

Distance - 281km

A Land of Mines and Complex Geology

The Baie Verte Peninsula is a land of complex geology and associated mineral deposits that underlie steep, thickly wooded hills. To reach it, take Route 410, The Dorset Trail, from Route 1.

This highway is named for the Dorset Eskimos who lived - and quarried - here 1,500 years ago. Even earlier, the Maritime Archaic Indians inhabited the peninsula and may have exploited its minerals. But both the aboriginals and early European settlers came for fish, game and timber.

Near the town of Baie Verte is Flatwater Pond Park, the site of a former logging camp. The park has a boat launch, camping picnic sites and peddle boat rentals. The park is not more than an hour's drive from any town on the peninsula and is a good base camp for exploring the area.

On Route 411, pass through Western Arm and on to Westport, which was the first permanent settlement on the peninsula. The forest here is regrowing following a fire some years ago, and the tender young growth makes ideal food for moose. There is a picnic park at the lighthouse, and sea stacks and rocky beaches. Then it's on to Purbeck's Cove, which may have been named for the white marble quarried nearby in 1891. The marble is similar to that found on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, England. The quarry is accessible by boat.

It's 35 kilometres back to Route 410. A bit further north, Route 413 branches off eastward toward Burlington. At one time this was the commercial centre of the peninsula, which at that time was called the Burlington Peninsula. There is a picnic site at the Indian Well and the Salmon Trail leads to a waterfall. At the end of the road is Middle Arm, where logging has been the main industry for much of this century.

Head back to Route 410 and continue north to its intersection with Route 412. At the end of this road is Seal Cove and its sandy, boulder-strewn beach backed by forested hills. This is a good place to see icebergs. For the adventurous, you can walk to the top of the hills for a spectacular view, and for the really adventurous, why not bring along your hang glider for the trip back down. On the return trip, take unpaved Route 419 to Wild Cove. The road passes through some very rugged and pretty country to the small village.

Then it's back to Route 410 and on to the hub of the peninsula, Baie Verte. This is another mining town that has known the boom and bust of that fickle industry. Asbestos was mined here in an open pit operation between 1963 and 1990. Since the economic lifeblood of the peninsula has been mining, it's entirely appropriate that this town is the location for the excellent Baie Verte Miner's Museum.

The museum is part of the Visitor Information Centre, and is connected to it by a short `mine shaft' and its displays. Here you will learn the fascinating story of the many mines that operated in this area. The museum is actually built right over an abandoned copper mine. This Terra Nova Mine, as it was called, operated between 1860 and 1864, and again from 1901 to 1915. Some silver and gold were also mined there. The first rail line in Newfoundland was built here in the 1860s to transport ore five kilometres between the five mine shafts and the dock.

Among the museum's displays are samples of virginite, a quartz-carbonate-fuchsite compound. The fuchsite, or chromium mica, gives the mineral its bright green colour. It is cut and polished and used for decorative purposes. There are displays on mining equipment, minerals, an 1860s miner's lamp, a kid's pit, a gold panning display, models and aboriginal artifacts. Outside is an old locomotive used at a mine many years ago.

For rock hounds and mineral sleuths, the museum provides great detail for further exploration of the many mine sites and mineral deposits on the peninsula. Nearby, you can climb the hill at Rattling Brook for a spectacular view of a waterfall that plunges down into a boiling pool of spray.

North of Baie Verte at the end of Route 410 is Fleur de Lys and the oldest mine on the peninsula. An interpretation centre here tells this fascinating story. Actually, it's a soapstone quarry (and a protected archaeological site) used certainly by the Dorset people and perhaps by the Maritime Archaic people. They hacked cubes on this soft mineral from a cliff face and used them to make cooking pots, bowls and seal-oil lamps. They also traded it with other groups. Lead, copper, zinc and molybdenum were mined nearby in the early 1900s. There are several hiking trails in the area which offer splendid views of icebergs in season.

On the return trip to Baie Verte, you can take a short side trip to Coachman's Cove, which was first settled by English, and later by the French and Irish. A hiking trial on the south side of the harbour leads to a picnic area. Further along the trail, you can walk to the lighthouse on French Island at low tide.

Just past Baie Verte, Route 414 takes you to the northeastern part of the peninsula. Near the junction of Route 414 and 418 is the site of the now abandoned Rambler Copper Mine which operated from 1904 to 1982. Some gold and silver were also mined here. At the end of Route 418 is Ming's Bight where geologists are exploring for economically viable mineral deposits. There are a small beach, a waterfall and trails. Ming's Bight was the site of Newfoundland's first gold mine, which operated from 1904 to 1906. Called the Goldenville Mine, it yielded only 158 ounces of the precious mineral. There is a marked trail to the mine site.

Heading east you come to Route 417 and the communities of Woodstock and Pacquet. Woodstock has a small picnic park and an excellent salmon river. The headland at Pacquet has a park with a magnificent view of the Horse Islands to the north and any icebergs that drift by. A copper mine once operated here, as well.

Another side trip off Route 414 involves taking unpaved Route 415 to Nipper's Harbour. The most striking natural feature in the community is a rock formation called The Lion, a granite outcrop. There is a Dorset Eskimo site here that is still to be excavated, and two old churches. An aboriginal burial ground is located on an island just offshore.

The next side road is Route 416 to Snooks Arm and Round Harbour. The coastline between Snooks Arm and Nipper's Harbour has a number of abandoned communities, including Bett's Cove, site of the first ore smelter in Newfoundland at the old copper mine there. The mine operated from 1875 to 1885 when a landslide, caused by the removal of ore-rich pillars, ruined the site at the same time copper prices fell. Geologists visit the site for samples of chalcopyrite, iron pyrites and other minerals. There are also some good examples of pillow lava in the area.

To the north of Route 414 on an unpaved road are Harbour Round and Brent's Cove, a pair of fishing communities. Further east and off Route 414 along an unpaved road is Tilt Cove, where copper mines operated from 1864 to 1917 and 1957 to 1967. A prospector named Smith McKay explored the area in 1857 and noticed that fisherman Isaac Winsor was using a large piece of copper ore for ballast. Winsor showed him where he found it and mining began a few years later. Gold, silver and nickel were also mined here.

In 1897, one of a series of stamps issued by Newfoundland to commemorate John Cabot's landing 400 years earlier featured the Tilt Cove mine. It is believed to be the world's first mine motif stamp.

The final two communities along this road are Shoe Cove and La Scie  La Scie was first settled by the French and was part of the French Shore. Its name means ‘saw,’ which refers to the jagged hills surrounding part of the town. A guided tour of the town and surrounding area is available.

There are many other places to see off the beaten track on the peninsula, and one of those is back almost to Route 1. It's a bit hard to spot at first, but there's an old logging road on the east side of Route 410 about 5 kms from its intersection with Route 1 than runs two kilometres over very rough terrain - you'll have to walk - to the spectacular double Black Brook Falls which plunge over an escarpment to the river valley below.

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