The Dorset Trail (397 km)

The Dorset Trail is a land of complex geology and associated mineral deposits that underlie steep, thickly wooded hills. 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 area and may have exploited its minerals. But both the aboriginals and early European settlers came originally for fish, game and timber.

To reach the Dorset Trail take Route 410, from Route 1

Take your first side trip on Route 411 to Western Arm and on to Westport.

Westport was the first permanent settlement on the Dorset Trail. There is a picnic park at the Westport Cove 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.

Further north along the Dorset Trail, Route 413 branches off toward Burlington

It's 35 kilometres back to Route 410. A bit further north along the Dorset Trail, Route 413 branches off eastward toward Burlington. At one time this was the commercial centre for the area. 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 the past 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 in spring and early summer. For the adventurous, you can walk to the top of the hills for a spectacular view. On the return trip, take Route 419 to Wild Cove. The road passes through some very rugged and pretty country to the small village.

Back to Route 410 and on to Baie Verte

The hub of the Dorset Trail, Baie Verte, is another town that has known the boom and bust of the mining industry. Asbestos was mined here in an open-pit operation between 1963 and 1990. Since the economic lifeblood of the region has been mining, it's entirely appropriate that this town is the location for the excellent Baie Verte Peninsula Miner's Museum.

The Baie Verte Peninsula Miner's Museum is part of the Visitor Information Centre, and is connected to it by a short mine shaft. 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. The Terra Nova Mine, as it was called, operated between 1860 and 1864, and again from 1901 to 1915. Silver and gold were also mined here. The first rail line in Newfoundland was built here in the 1860s to transport ore five kilometres between the mine shafts and the dock.

Among the Baie Verte Peninsula Miner's Museum 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 Dorset Trail. 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

The oldest mine on the peninsula is in Fleur de Lys. The Dorset Soapstone Quarry National Historic Site tells a fascinating story. 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.

The Dorset Soapstone Quarry National Historic Site is a protected archaeological site used certainly by the Dorset people and perhaps by the Maritime Archaic people. They hacked cubes of 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.

Make a return trip to Baie Verte and stop in Coachman's Cove

On the way back to Baie Verte, you can take a short side trip to Coachman's Cove, which was first settled by the 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 Dorset Trail. Near the junction of Route 414 and 418 is the site of the now abandoned Rambler Copper Mine, which operated from 1904 to 1982. 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 is 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, come to Route 417 and 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.

Take another side trip along partially paved Route 415 to Nipper's Harbour

The most striking natural feature in the community of Nipper's Harbour is a rock formation called The Lion, which is a granite outcrop. There is a Dorset Eskimo archaeology site here, two old churches and 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 here for samples of chalcopyrite, iron pyrites and other minerals. There are also some good examples of pillow lava in the area.

Travel North to Harbour Round and Brent's Cove

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.

Other Treasures

There are many other places to see off the beaten track on the Dorset Trail, 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 five kilometres from its intersection with Route 1 that 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.