Ontario’s Superior Country region is lucky to be home of the largest Amethyst deposit in all of Canada. Just 60km east of Thunder Bay (60km west of Nipigon), along the Lake Superior Circle Tour, sits Amethyst Mine Panorama. For over 35 years the mine has been operated by a local family that is dedicated to offering a quality product and experience for travelers and families.
Amethyst is a violet variety of quartz that was once used by the ancient Greeks to decrease the chances of alcohol intoxication and to improve one’s intelligence. Although these features may not be accurate today Amethyst is still widely used in jewelry, landscaping, and the mines of Ontario have become an extremely popular attraction!
When I was young my family and I would camp at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park numerous times each summer. Often our group visited Amethyst Mine Panorama. We piled into three different vehicles and traveled the short 30-minute drive up to the mine from our campground. For me, and my friends, all around the ages of ten at the time, the mine was an astonishing wonder. We often spent our days exploring, digging, and learning.
To access the mine, you turn north off the Trans-Canada highway onto East Loon road. The road soon turns from asphalt to gravel. However, it is well maintained and shouldn’t be a cause for concern for anyone traveling in car or RV. The mine is 1,400 feet above sea level and the drive offers majestic views that will take your breath away.
As you reach the highest point of your journey a beautifully crafted log Welcome Centre comes into view. A large field in front of the centre offers a vast amount of parking including pull through spaces for RVs and trailers. As you exit your vehicle and walk toward the welcoming centre you will pass several large Amethyst pieces. You won’t be able to help but wonder how on earth they moved such large, beautiful, stones.
Entering the building is another experience entirely. The beautifully maintained structure was built in 2005 and offers a multitude of Amethyst jewelry, information, and the mine’s friendly, welcoming, and knowledgeable staff. This is where your Amethyst adventure truly begins. A pathway from the Welcome Centre brings you to the picking and digging sections of the mine.
The picking section consists of large tables with multiple pieces of Amethyst that have been previously unearthed by other visitors. Exploring the picking area will build your excitement as you imagine what you will find while digging yourself.
The digging area is for those looking to get their hands dirty. Here is where you will sort through dirt, rock, and rubble, to unearth your very own pieces of purple Amethyst. Visitors with young children will especially love digging for Amethyst as the experience is like a treasure hunt that the entire family will enjoy. Once you find your treasures the mine has a cleaning station where you can wash and scrub away any dirt and sediment in order to make your Amethyst shine.
If you are considered a “Rock Hound” or even have some additional interest in learning about Amethyst you will not be disappointed. The mine consists of several interpretive signs inside and outside the Welcome Centre, and near the digging and picking areas. These multiple panels and descriptive signs offer the reader information surrounding the history and geology of Amethyst. Guided tours are also available for those who are really interested in learning the history of both Amethyst and the mine. During my latest visit to the mine I opted for the guided tour and I was not disappointed. I left the mine much more knowledgeable of not only Amethyst but of Northern Ontario as well. Our tour was guided by one of the family members operating the mine, he kept everyone engaged and entertained while making sure to educate us on the topic.
Experiencing the largest Canadian Amethyst deposit is a must for anyone visiting Thunder Bay, traveling the Lake Superior Circle Tour, or simply exploring Northern Ontario! One last word of advice – if you keep your eyes open while visiting the mine you may be lucky enough to find the Million Dollar Truck. Legend has it this old pick-up hauled over a one-million dollars worth of ore in its lifetime! So, keep your eyes peeled, your hands dirty, and your hearts open and you will be sure to build memories that will last a lifetime! Start planning your visit to Amethyst Mine Panorama in Northern Ontario’s Superior Country today!