Hunting the Secrets of the North Shore: The Old Mines of Lynn Headwaters

***A word of warning***

Exploring mines is an inherently dangerous activity. The author encourages you to heed all warning signs and take all precautions! Obey warning signs. Do not enter open mine adits!

One Saturday in March of 2015, Doug, Alex, and I set out to search for some of the hidden mines in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. It had been something we had planned to do for quite some time, and the day did not disappoint!

While not strictly a secret, it isn’t commonly known that during the period of 1900 to 1940, a number of mining claims were prospected in the Lynn, Norvan, and Hanes Creek drainages. From what I have read, it was mostly iron, copper, and zinc that were discovered, but no doubt more precious metals like silver and especially gold were the real objectives.

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View from Third Debris Chute in Lynn Headwaters. I sometimes call this spot the gateway to adventure!

Doug had obtained a map from fellow North Shore Rescue member Wally, who had once visited the area previously with local mountaineering legend Howie Rode. Our plan was to hike the Headwaters Trail to roughly the 5 km mark, and after checking out the camp south of that location, we would then climb up the steep draw east of the bridge, in search of whatever else we could find.

The first part of the trek was easy enough,  rambling on the relatively flat ground of the well used path. We encountered  dozens of runners and hikers on their way up to Norvan Falls, a popular weekend destination. Most of them might surmise that the trail they were running on was once a thriving lifeline for logging operations, but few would likely know it was also used by miners. Lynn Headwaters, once off limits to the public as part of Vancouver’s  water supply, eventually became a regional park back in 1981.

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Ore Cart you see here is one of easier artifacts to locate in the area. 

I had stumbled upon an old ore cart a number of years before while hunting old growth trees in the area, long before I even knew anything about mining in Lynn Valley. It sits only about ten metres off the trail at around the 4.7 km mark. All that remains are the axles and some attached hardware, as the decks have long since returned to the earth, and nearby lurks a pile of ore tailings. According to Wally’s map, there is a mine adit fairly close to where the cart is, but we did not succeed in locating it.

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Doug, putting navigational skills to use

Within sight of the ore cart is another guilty pleasure of mine that I call The Survivor. It is one of the most unusual trees in the entire park! It’s a steeped in legend, too, as the story goes, a group of loggers happened to be busy falling the tree when an accident occurred that took the lives of two of the men. It was decided that the tree would be left to stand, with all its cuts, and it still survives today. It’s well over 600 years old now, and truly defies adversity.

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The Survivor!

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Sometimes when I look at this cedar I can’t believe it hasn’t toppled, and I hope that day never comes! There was a time when Western Red Cedars between four and five metres in diameter and up ten centuries old were commonplace Lynn Valley. When the Cedar Mills Logging Company plied its trade here, the fallers were very thorough. I have hunted almost all of the park’s drainages on the east side of Lynn Creek and found very few ancient trees.

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A true giant!

Now, back to our quest for the mines! We crossed over the log bridge near the 5 km marker and began climbing up the north bank of the unnamed stream. The terrain was typical of the area, in that we needed to gain but a couple hundred metres but the grade was unforgivingly steep. You also had to be careful not to cliff yourself out, trap yourself in a sharp ravine, or get stuck climbing over deadfall. All good clean fun, of course, for three guys who enjoy that sort of outing!

Close to the trail we found quite a few relics, like a shovel head, piping, and an old gas can. The men who worked these slopes were tough and dedicated. Packing loads of gear up mountains, like cast iron stove parts or pipes, for example, is no easy trick!

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We also found an unusual hook, which may have been used for logging purposes, and some wire rope cable was buried right beside it. I thought it would make an amazing movie prop for a Halloween movie of some kind. What do you think?

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Next we traversed northward into the next creek drainage, reaching 500 metres in elevation,  in search of another possible camp.Some coal burn remains were found, as well as a number of cast iron rails and stove parts. Having picked these up, I have to say again that the act of lugging these parts uphill and assembling them must have been an onerous task indeed!

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Stove plate

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There were also cast iron pipes strewn about, and some apothecary bottles. Alex, like Doug, is also a North Shore Rescue volunteer, regaled me with tales of his youth in England that included digging for artifacts under cover of darkness. Hunting for hidden history had long been an avid interest of his. Europe, of course, offers centuries more to discover than the relatively short recorded heritage in North Vancouver.

Doug’s idea was to cross the next creek canyon, because the map indicated several finds on the adjacent cliffs. This involved fighting our way up another steep spine and making a careful crossing over slick rock. We were all glad that there had been very little recent rainfall.

In less than five minutes, we knew we were on to something when we spotted this sign! While the guys approached from above, I climbed up from below, and saw what I thought was either a work platform or perhaps the base of an old cabin.

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The platform had long since  been covered by trees and dirt but there was a mound of tailings beside it. From above, Doug and Alex announced with excitement that they had found one of the mines!

Alex was the first to have a closer look, and he discovered that there was a shaft opening beneath the floorboards that went down quite a ways! This was not a place to trifle with, as by dropping a rock inside we guessed that it was filled by very deep water!

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The ground above the mine was extremely unforgiving. We wondered aloud exactly why this spot had been chosen, of all places. It must have been those dreams of untold riches that drive men to prospect. Their dreams must have been well beyond the modest rewards found here, we decided.

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The mine timbers were in amazing condition, considering how long they had been abandoned, and you could see that they had been notched, perhaps to accommodate some kind of pulley system and /or a winch to bring the ore up. Deep in the mine opening, on the right, there was even a partly finished scupture of a face.

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It was, at the end of the day, time very well spent. Soon we departed, recrossing the creek, trying to work our way south to the creek canyon we’d started in. We gave up that venture when we realized we soon would run out of time, so we plunged downhill, reaching the trail and its hordes of humanity in just minutes. All that was left was an easy hike back to the parking lot on a perfect spring day. Curiously, we never returned to search for the remaining mines, which remain, quiet and abandoned, as a relics of time gone by.

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8 thoughts on “Hunting the Secrets of the North Shore: The Old Mines of Lynn Headwaters”

  1. What a cool hike, it like a combined hike/treasure hunt! Great pictures, the trees have the most amazing shapes!

    Like

  2. Would like to connect re mine site. Was in “area” today but unsuccessful. Did see Survivor tree and wheels. Could you connect via email?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Tree Hunter,

    I’m heading up there in the rain today in hopes to find your discoveries.
    Would love yo connect via email and head up there with you if you’re ever keen. Thanks! Rob

    Like

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