The Denison Mine Site Revisited

Actually, I was headed for the Panel Mine site, to do the hike to Strike Lake today but, as usual for this area, the construction is taking longer than they said it would. It was supposed to be finished on Sept. 11, and when I got there today, they still had the road blocked off. So, I just switched gears, and decided to do some exploring in the Denison Mine site instead.

I have been to the Denison site before, but I didn’t cover too much area last time, so there was still a lot of exploring to do, in fact, even after today, there is still quite a bit more to do, so I’ll just keep going here until I have it all explored.


I parked the truck at the gate, and I started the hike on a somewhat overcast day. I knew that this would make it more difficult to get good pictures, but I didn’t want to just sit around all day.

As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of the mining families lived within the mine sites full time. The spots where the dwellings were located are still visible, but most of them are really overgrow, not only with bushes, but with larger trees.


Here’s a spot where a dwelling once stood. You can see that you would probably need to get the chainsaw out to put anything in there now.


The forest is taking back what belongs to it and, eventually, very little evidence will remain.


I continue down the road and, when I say down, I mean downhill. It’s a down grade all the way in and, of course, that means it will be uphill all the way out. I have to keep that in mind, so that I don’t bite off more than I can chew.


I saw a number of crab apple trees around the area where the dwellings once were.


There must have been people living all along this road back in the day. At least it wouldn’t have been a very long commute to work. I imagine many of them would have just walked.


An old tennis court, which was probably part of the Denison Lodge, wastes away in the bush.


The gate was not locked, so I let myself in.


It could probably still be used, with a little bit of grass cutting.


Here’s the old walkway, leading up to the tennis court gate. It’s a little worse for wear.


There were roads here that I didn’t go down, so I’ll have to come back, at some point, to explore those.


I continued along, what looked to be, the main road, until it came to a larger paved area, which looked something like a parking lot.


There was a small lake, off to the left side. I don’t believe this lake has a name, if it does, it’s not marked on any maps that I have.


As I moved across to the right side of the road, I saw this sign, pointing to a smaller side road.


This is the entrance to Denison Lodge. This is not used as a lodge anymore, in fact, it’s in pretty derelict shape. However, I do believe that it is still used, occasionally, for private get- togethers.


I continued down the driveway, towards the lodge.


And there it is, Denison Lodge. There’s no one home and, as I said, it is rarely used. I guess they will continue to have the occasional get-together here, until it becomes unusable. From what I can tell, that won’t be too long, since the roof is in need of serious repair. When that caves in, it will no longer be of any use. I don’t understand why they don’t, at least, do some repair on it, to preserve it as part of mining history, and also just to have a nice building available for any kind of use they choose. It just seems like a waste to me.


The walls seem pretty sound, and it’s a fair size building.


This walkway goes to the back of the building, and then down to the beach area.


As you can see, it looks like a building worth saving, but when that roof caves in, it will be utterly useless.


Now I’m heading down to the beach area.


This looks like a rack that they might have kept canoes on.


Down at the beach.

Back in the day, this was probably a very busy place, but it’s like a ghost town now.

IMG_0045 Panorama

The white sky, and less light does tend to lend a certain amount of drabness to these pictures, but there’s not much I can do about that.


This monument stands off to the right of the beach area, and it looks like there used to be some kind of plaque on the front of it, which is no longer there.


This is the only clue, as to what the monument might be for, but I don’t know what these initials stand for. I’m sure that one of the D’s is Dension, but I’m not sure about the others. I do know that the locals refer to this building as Denison House, so it is possible the the H stands for House, but I can’t be sure. If any reader comes across this post, and knows the answer, it would be interesting to be able to put words to these initials.

IMG_0059 Panorama

A panorama of the rear of the building.


I followed a short trail along the shoreline and came to, what I believe to be, the pump house for the lodge.


Going back out the trail that leads to the pump house.

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Another panorama of the rear of the building.

After this I walked up the left side of the building, and around to the front again.


At the front, I saw this old broken set of stairs. It wasn’t just this short set either, I could see that it continued to zigzag way up the hill. Of course, I had to know where it was going, right?


Wow, that’s one gnarly set of stairs!


I made it to the top, only to find out that it ended at the road that I had just come in on. My guess is that this was intended as a short cut to get to the tennis court.


I was finished exploring the lodge anyways, so it’s just as well that I ended up back on the road. I came to this dirt side road, but I passed it by because the road I was on seemed to be more of a main road. However I would come back to this road later.


The road that I took brought me out to an open grassy area and, in my experience, these open areas are usually the location of the mine itself.


And there it is, the Denison Mine shaft.

I actually had no idea where the mine shaft was, since I wasn’t intending to come here today, and I didn’t check the map. I just happened to stumble on it, as well as the fact that I knew to look in open spaces like this one.


Strangely enough, this shaft was not marked, in any way, with it’s name. All the other mine shafts that I’ve seen, that have this type of concrete cap, have the name of the shaft imprinted into a concrete block. I didn’t even see any marks on the vent pipe either.

IMG_0092 Panorama

An overview of the site.


An old retaining wall, with trees growing out of it.


I headed up this old road, past the mine shaft, thinking that I might get some more significant views of Quirke Lake.


I was rewarded for my efforts but, being such a dull day, the pictures don’t really stand out.


It looks like that there was something here at one time, my guess is it was a ventilation shaft. There was a cutoff pipe sticking a few inches out of the ground, and it was filled with concrete, so it’s not ventilating much anymore.


I started to make my way up to higher ground, to see if I could get some better views of Quirke Lake.

I think that I’ve mostly got the microphone wind noise licked now. It still creeps in now and then, but it’s much better than it was. Being able to hear the wind is acceptable, that low howling noise across the microphone opening is not. It was a very simple fix, and I have to wonder why Canon would not install something similar, it would cost very little to do so.


I had now reached about as far as I wanted to go, on this side of the site, so I started to make my way back, towards the mine shaft.


Heading back, towards the shaft.

IMG_0129 Panorama

There were probably all kinds of buildings in this area at one time. Removing them was part of the ongoing environmental restoration process.

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Standing on a high spot, I take one last panorama before I leave the area of the shaft.

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Back at the small, no name lake, not far from the lodge.


I mentioned that I would come back to this road, when I first passed it, and that’s what I did now.


I saw a path, leading off to the left side of this road, so I went in to investigate. I could see that the path narrowed, but it did continue, however, this was not for today, so I went back out to the road I was on, and continued down that way.


It was at this point that I started to get the feeling that it was time to start back, but there’s something about the allure of an old bush road, going into some mystery place, that’s hard for me to resist. Still, I knew that the way back was going to be mostly uphill, and this road was going downhill even more, so the scales of ‘what to do’ were definitely weighing my options.

I decide to continue for a bit longer. πŸ™‚

IMG_0150 Panorama

I came to a gravel beach in a bay off Quirke Lake. The road did continue further, but it was here that I decided to call it quits for the day.


I took a short break at that spot, and then I started the long slog uphill, back towards the truck.


Back on the paved road, still heading up hill. It ain’t easy, I tell ya. The old adage, “If ya wanna play, ya gotta pay” comes to mind.


The top on this mushroom got so big, the stem couldn’t hold it up anymore.


Anyone for a mushroom pizza? That’s the top of a mushroom on my hand, to give you an idea of the size of these things. It was already broken, I don’t like killing things for no reason. Even mushrooms have a right to live.


The colours up here are becoming more widespread now.

And so, this installment of hiking the mine sites ends. After that long uphill battle, I have an appointment at the local coffee shop.


13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Peter Hunkin on September 13, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks for the tour!

    It’s difficult to imagine what this site looked like, with a head frame dominating the scene and the constant activity that went on around it.

    The small self-contained community that lived here and depended on the job the mine provided, had their own socio-economic pecking order. Probably, the most blatant example of this was the type of living quarters provided, i.e. the trailers, bunk houses and the quality homes provided for the bosses. You can see examples of this in some of the old established mining communities, such as Timmins.


    • You’re welcome Peter. If anyone knows what it was like back then you do. Yes, I’ve heard about the trailers people lived in, must have been brutal in the winters. The ‘pecking order’ is a common trait in society in general. Wherever humans are involved, status, and class, will play a role, even if those involved deny it, which they usually do. Still, as difficult as it surely was, it must have been quite an adventurous lifestyle, and I think that’s what intrigues me the most.



  2. Posted by Kirk Rodgers on March 2, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    I worked at the mine in the mid ’70’s. In 1974, there was a bunkhouse along the north side of the ‘circle’ road, about a kilometer from the Denison Lodge. I stayed there about 8 months before getting a place in town. It was removed a number of years later. There was only about 10 houses where people lived on site. This was for senior management, and located about halfway between the Lodge and the main shaft.


    • Hey Kirk, thanks for dropping by. Yep, I figured that the locations I saw where smaller homes once stood were probably management dwellings. There are a number of areas in many of the mine sites where it appears that buildings once stood, usually they are just clearings in the bush now. There’s not much left to determine exactly what was at most of these locations, except for pictures that I’ve seen of the mining operations while they were still intact. With the Lodge, and the tennis court still there, this seems like one of the more comparatively luxurious of the mine sites, although I’m sure that your bunkhouse did not compare with some of the other amenities at that site. As usual, it’s great to hear from you guys that actually worked these mines.


  3. Posted by Kirk Rodgers on March 3, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Here are where some of the facilities existed in the mid – to late ’70’s for your next visit.


    • Thanks for that info Kirk. Yes, it definitely does help me understand the setup there. I haven’t been down to the #1 shaft yet, so I will take care of that when the warmer weather arrives. I already knew that all these mine shafts had ventilation raises, but I’m not sure I understand why there were ventilation raises on the islands? This would suggest to me that the shafts ran underneath of Quirke Lake, in order to connect with the ventilation shafts. Do you happen to know if this is correct?


  4. Posted by Kirk Rodgers on March 3, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    About 90% of the underground mine was actually directly under the lake. The orebody that was being mined was several kilometers wide and long, but only about 3 to 10 meters thick. Something like a sheet of paper, dipping from about a depth of 200 meters in the north, to about a 1000 meters thick in the south, where it connected to Spanish American and Stanrock orebodies
    The shafts were located on the shore at the west end of the orebody and connected down to the orebody at a depth of about 500 meters in the case of #1 and at about 900 meters deep in the case of #2. From the shafts, tunnels ran along, and up and down the sheet-like orebody, in order to remove as much of the ore as possible. This extended out under the lake.
    However, when these tunnels reached out more than 2 kilometers under the lake, it became harder to push air down the shafts and along the long tunnels. So ventilation shafts were developed up to the islands to allow air to be blown down for those easterly mining areas.
    Incidentally, the ‘sheet’ shaped orebody was actually uranium bearing conglomerate, which is a solid rock that appears to have different types of rounded boulders and rocks imbedded in it. I saw an example of this is one of your photos that you took at the Stanrock site.


    • Wow, that is really interesting stuff Kirk. Thanks so much for taking the time to reply. I had no idea that the tunnels extended under Quirke Lake, and especially not that far. So, even though the mine shafts were pretty deep, at around 3,000ft, the tunnels that extended out from them were even longer. I had read about ‘compartments’ while researching these mines, and I got the idea that the ‘compartments’ were like large rooms, that extended out from the main shafts.
      Yes, I remember that rock you are talking about. The locals call them Pudding Stone, and they are large rocks which look like they have a lot of smaller round rocks melted right into them. Very interesting stuff Kirk. Now I’ll be exploring with a whole new outlook on what lies below me. πŸ™‚


  5. Posted by Kirk Rodgers on March 3, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Also to help understand the answer to one of your questions, the shafts and the vent raises were all vertical. This is common in mining; but occasionally they are developed at angles.


  6. Posted by Kirk Rodgers on March 3, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    I should read my posts clearly before sending. Instead it should say: “…Something like a sheet of paper, dipping from about a depth of 200 meters in the north, to about a 1000 meters DEEP in the south, where it connected to Spanish American and Stanrock orebodies.”


  7. Posted by Kirk Rodgers on March 3, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    If I understand what you say about ‘compartments’ correctly, this refers to the actual construction of the shaft. A framework of wood (or in this case and many others, steel) beams are constructed every few vertical meters in the shaft, like the posts and beams in a office tower construction project. These beams divide the shaft into several different vertical openings to accommodate different activities in the shaft. For example, one would be for the hoisting of men and materials into the mine; Another would be for hoisting ore or barren waste rock out of the mine; Another necessity is for an emergency escape ladderway out of the mine. Each of these areas, that are separated by wood or steel beams, are called ‘compartments’ in the shaft.
    There certainly are ‘large rooms’ underground but theseare always located away from the shafts. They will be near connecting tunnels that would provide access from the shafts. These are called ‘stopes’ and are the main areas from which the ore is removed.
    Thanks for the opportunity to revisit my experiences at the Denison Mine in the 1970s.


    • Yep, that probably explains what I’d read about ‘compartments’ Kirk. Again, thanks for all this information about the mines. It really helps me understand how things were done, and how far these mines actually extend. There is one other question that you might be able to help me with. How the heck did they manage all the water that would have been coming into the mine shafts, and tunnels? I know that they must have had a pump running 24/7, but with the depth, and lengths of the tunnels, there must have been a deluge of water seeping in all the time?


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