One of the most celebrated silver mining camps in the world is located in the Town of Cobalt and Township of Coleman. The development of exploration, mining and milling techniques in the Cobalt Silver Camp led the way for growth of the mining industry in Ontario and Canada.
Silver was first discovered at the south end of Cobalt Lake in 1903 and has been mined continuously since that time. To this date, over a half billion ounces have been produced from the area. At one time, over 100 mines were in operation and supported a population of 12,000 within the Town of Cobalt.
The Cobalt Mining District National Historic Site of Canada, in Ontario, illustrates the dramatic story of the silver mining boom from 1903 to the late 1920s. During that time, the Cobalt Camp became world renown, marking the beginning of an era of mining wealth and northern development in Canada. Activity in the Cobalt Camp was concentrated in an area of less than thirteen square kilometres. The mines of Cobalt Camp extracted the world's richest deposits of pure native silver and secured international investments in Canada's mining industry during the early years of the 20th century.
The Cobalt Mining District provides insight into the history of Canada's mining industry and the haphazardously built towns and vibrant communities formed around it. The Silver Boom in Cobalt made a significant impact on Canada's social and economic landscape. The Town of Cobalt and Coleman Township, unlike many boom towns, are alive and well today.
The district's landscape is comprised of a unique concentration of mines and mill remnants, open-cut veins, and unique elements of the townsite, which together impart a vivid sense of the former mining processes that dominated Northern Ontario.
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) unveiled a plaque to commemorate the national historic significance of the Cobalt Mining District as a part of the Cobalt Centennial Celebrations in 2003. The plaque illustrates the important contribution that the development of northern Ontario played in the growth of our country as a whole. Successful silver mining in the area attracted financial investments for hard rock mining across Canada.
By 1910, the Ragged Chutes Compressed Air Plant, one of only three like it in the world, came on-stream. It supplied compressed air to the area mines through an extensive network of pipes, parts of which still remain throughout the camp. Between 1910 and 1914, three hydro-electric plants were built to meet the burgeoning demand for power. A street car line soon began operating and reflected one of the immediate benefits of a booming economy. Peak production was reached in 1911 when 31,507,791 ounces of silver were produced. By 1922, over 300 million ounces of silver had been extracted from local mines.
Realizing the unique contribution that the discovery and development of the Cobalt silver mining camp has made to the mineral industry in Canada and the world, the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines conceived a pilot project designed to preserve and illustrate some of the historical attributes of the area.
The result is the Heritage Silver Trail; a self-guided drive along the back roads of Cobalt and Coleman Township through some of the more historic mining sites in the camp. A six-kilometre loop within the existing road system east of Cobalt Lake provides typical examples of mining at the turn of the century. Through a system of billboards, route markers, site signs and information points, visitors are able to travel through the past and experience the history of the Cobalt mining camp. Each stop illustrates a different aspect of the Cobalt story and consists of a parking area, lookout platforms and/or walking trails.
Cobalt's Heritage Silver Trail was first organized in 1985 with the support of the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. It has expanded year by year since that time with the help of government and private funding and many hours of volunteer service by members of the Cobalt Historical Society so that it is now four times it's original size. In 2001 the Cobalt Camp was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.
The trail provides access to important sites where you can learn about the exciting history of the silver rush in Cobalt more than one hundred years ago. Each site is enhanced by signs and illustrations.
The trail booklet is designed to provide the visitor with a background of historical and technical data to enable an understanding of the history of the Cobalt Camp and the significance of the various sites along the trail. [PDF copy available here]
Please note that only the officially numbered sites have been approved for safe public access. The sites are under review, and some have been closed either because they are now on private property or for serious safety concerns. They no longer appear on the Trail map.
The Cobalt Historical Society is grateful for the ongoing generous support of Agnico Eagle. They understand the importance of mining heritage and grant us permission to enter on their property. It is important that you refrain from stepping off the paths or breaching the fence barriers. Please take out what you bring in with you, or use the trash bins where available.
"The Heritage Silver Trail (Cobalt) is one of the best examples of a well signed, maintained and self-guided trail system in northern Ontario. There is much to learn and experience here. You can drive, walk, and my recommendation is take your bicycles! Yours to discover, stay awhile."
Link to map of the Trail Large colour prints of this map are available at: Cobalt Post Office, 22 Silver Street; White Mountain Publications, 50 Silver Street; and other locations around town. We have added GPS coordinates to each site still on the Trail. Missing numbers are sites that are now closed to the public, but all the signage still has the original numbers, and so until we can re-vamp the whole Trail, the numbers remain the same.
Site 1 Townsite Mine LOCATION: opposite 27 Galena Street at Miller Avenue, south end of Cobalt.
GPS: 47.391874, -79.691163
Site 2 Glory Hole LOCATION: Same as Townsite Mine (#1) Opposite 27 Galena Street at Miller Avenue, south end of Cobalt. GPS: 47.392866, -79.690555
Site 3 McKinley Darragh Mill Site LOCATION: Coleman Road GPS: 47.388139, -79.691692
Site 4 The Little Silver Vein LOCATION: Coleman Road. GPS: 47.387190, -79.686220
Site 5 Cart Lake Tailings Lookout LOCATION: Coleman Road GPS: 47.383536, -79.684574
Site 7 Nipissing Hill Lookout LOCATION: Nipissing Road GPS: 47.391338, -79.680132
Site 9 Right-of-Way Mine LOCATION: Nipissing Road GPS: 47.397783, -79.678252
Site 11 Larose Blacksmith Shop LOCATION: Kerr Lake Road at south end of bridge.GPS: 47.398345, -79.676716
Site 12 Nipissing 73-Meyer Shaft LOCATION: Argentite Street, about 350 meters north from the corner of Argentite Street and Lang Street, past the Arena GPS: 47.400573, -79.683821
Site 13 Coniagas Shaft House #4 LOCATION: 50 Silver Street at the corner of Prospect Avenue GPS: 47.396481, -79.685993
Site 14 Pan Silver Headframe LOCATION: 21 Silver Street GPS: 47.395453, -79.685428
Site 16 Colonial Mine Site LOCATION: Kerr Lake Road. GPS: 47.394388, -79.660930
Site 20 Jack Koza Park LOCATION: Peters Road, behind the Miners' Tavern at 75 Lang Street GPS: 47.398158, -79.680841
21 Silver Street
Box 309, Cobalt, ON P0J 1C0
Tel: c/o 705-679-5555