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Rock Lore Manitoba...
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Rock Lore

From nickels and arrowheads to chunks of gold, space rocks, fossils, and more, Manitoba has great rock legends and stories to tell. Enjoy learning more about Manitoba's colourful geological past. Click on the red text to find out a little more lore.

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An excerpt from the poem If the Earth by Joe Miller

If the Earth
were only a few feet in diameter,
floating a few feet above a field somewhere,
people would come from everywhere to marvel
at it. People would walk around it marvelling at its
big pools of water, its little pools, and the water flowing
between. People would marvel at the bumps on it and the
holes in it. They would marvel at the very thin layer of gas
surrounding it and the water suspended in the gas. The people
would marvel at all the creatures walking around the surface
of the ball and at the creatures in the water. The people
would declare it as sacred because it was the only one, and
they would protect it so that it would not be hurt. The ball
would be the greatest wonder known, and people would
come to it to be healed, to gain knowledge, to know
beauty, and to wonder how it could be. People would
love it and defend it with their lives because they
would somehow know that their lives could be
nothing without it. If the Earth were
only a few feet in diameter.



Did You Eat Your Rocks Today?


Did you know humans need to eat rocks to stay alive? It’s true!  From A to Z, we need minerals to stay healthy! Where do these minerals come from? From foods produced from the earth, which is full of minerals!

We need major essential minerals or ‘macro minerals’ including: sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sulphur.

Check out this cool mineral chart to discover how your body uses essential minerals and more!


Ancient Secrets


If you ever have the opportunity to visit Cedar Lake in western Manitoba, you might come across a rich golden-brown glassy-looking pebble. Look it over carefully! It could be a chunk of ancient fossilized tree resin, known as ‘amber’.  Amber is found around the world, and is often prized as a semi-precious gem.  Examine the piece of amber closely. Is something staring back at you? It could be the ancient remains of a 78-79 million year old insect (fossilized some 14 million years before the Earth’s dinosaurs disappeared).

Amber was first reported in 1891 in beach sands found along the western shores of Cedar Lake in western Manitoba by Joseph Burr Tyrrell. Cedar Lake amber or "Chemawinite" was once collected in bulk along with woody beach debris. The amber was then separated from the debris and then melted down for use as a varnish. Amber from the Baltic was also used this way in Europe during the 1500–1600s. When the Grand Rapids dam was built in Manitoba in 1965, the amber-rich beaches became submerged in water and the chemawinite disappeared.

However, over time, some of the amber has managed to resurface due in part to wave action that "floated" the lighter amber upwards from the drowned beach sands. As a result, this ancient "treasure" can once again be found along the strandline of Cedar Lake.


How to Turn (a) Nickel into a Loonie

Most people think of a nickel as a five cent coin, but did you know that nickel is also used in the production of the Canadian one dollar coin (or "Loonie") as well? Find out more!


Buffalo Rock

Need to scratch your back? So did bison as they roamed the plains of south western Manitoba many years ago. Look closely around Winnipeg's Fort Whyte Nature Centre and their Buffalo Stone Café, and in fields and towns around Manitoba, and you just might come across giant rocks that were rubbing stones or backscratchers for bison! (click image below for larger view).

Images of buffalo stone


Spooky Gold

There’s gold, and it’s haunting and
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the great, big, broad land way up
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

An excerpt of The Spell of the Yukon by Robert W. Service.



A Big Chunk of Gold

What makes gold so exciting to discover? First of all, because gold is rare, it isn’t easy to find. Can you imagine finding a big chunk of gold right out of the blue? It happened in Manitoba when a large nugget was unearthed in 1961 at the former San Antonio Mine in Bissett, Manitoba. The nugget was 10 inches long and weighed in at 211 ounces, or six kilograms. Two years later it was purchased and became part of a collection at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa as part of Canada’s exciting mineral and mining heritage.


How Gold Got to Rice Lake

An Indigenous peoples legend tells the story of a fair-haired handsome youth from the north named Pogowi Manitou who once visited the Indigenous people on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. Pogowi’s visit brought the people good fortune with hunting. A beautiful maiden named Etomami lived in the village. Although she had met many young men who wanted to marry her, Etomami had set her heart on marrying Pogowi Manitou. One day after the couple married they went gathering wild rice and were stopped by a young man named Manigotagan. Out of anger that Etomami had not married him, Manigotogan rushed at Pogowi Manitou and struck him to the ground. Ever since, the ground was marked by threads of yellow metal running through rocks in the area around Rice Lake.


Manitoba Black Gold

Did you know that Manitoba has a petroleum industry? We sure do, and it's a strong and prosperous one! Petroleum was first discovered in Manitoba in 1951. Manitoba's current oil production is located in southwest Manitoba along the northeastern border of the Williston Basin, a sedimentary basin that also occupies portions of southern Saskatchewan, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. Since production began, over 296 million barrels of oil have been produced in Manitoba. Find out more about Manitoba's petroleum industry.


A Flin Flon Rock Story

In the mid-1900s, a prospector named Tom Creighton eyed some shiny metal found in a trench. Tom was excited about finding gold, and since he had carried around a paperback book in his backpack for many years about a curious hero named Flintabbety Flonatin who wandered a subterranean land overflowing with gold, Tom couldn’t help but think of the storybook character as he exclaimed to his friends, “Boys, this must be the place where old ‘Flin Flon’ shook the gold from his dust-laden whiskers! What do you say we call this place Flin Flon?” That’s how one of Manitoba’s earliest famous mining towns got its truly unique name.

Canada Vignettes: Flin Flon (Videobelow, National Film Board of Canada, 1978)


Rocks from Space!

Did you know that one of Manitoba’s lakes was formed by the impact of a meteor falling from space? Situated in the Canadian Shield area of Whiteshell Provincial Park, the lake is called ‘West Hawk’ and is Manitoba’s deepest lake with a depth of 115 metres (377 ft).


A Bug Made of Stone?

Actually, it’s the world’s biggest TRILOBITE—ISOTELUS REX, a new species of an ancient creature found in northern Manitoba in 1998. Trilobites are an extinct group of sea-dwelling anthropods (joint-legged animals). This unique fossil is a distant cousin to crabs, scorpions and insects and is one of the most familiar fossils of the Paleozoic Era (about 545-250 million years ago). You can learn about this ancient giant at The Manitoba Museum, and you can discover more about The World's Biggest Trilobite.


Settlers Salt

When early settlers came to Manitoba they discovered that they could extract or mine salt from salt springs on the west side of Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis. The salt was used to preserve meat. Salt mining became the earliest authentically-recorded mineral industry activity in the province. Workers from the Hudson’s Bay Company service manufactured salt in large iron kettles from the early-to-late 1800s and possibly earlier. By 1874 more than 1,000 bushels of salt was removed annually from Monkman’s Springs. Salts springs can still be found around Highways 20 and 10 near The Pas.


Lightning Rocks?

Can rocks make lightning!? Not exactly, but striking two quartz rocks together can create a light effect called triboluminescence. But wait, can lightning make rocks? Yes it can, if it hits silica-rich sediment such as silica sand to form "fulgurite" or "petrified lightning".


A $5 Legend

The gold mining town of Bissett, Manitoba, is rich in 'rock lore'. Around the time of the first famous mining claim staked in 1911 by Major E. A. Pelletier, an inspector with the Royal North West Mounted Police, the town didn’t have a bank. A San Antonio mine manager, D.J. Kennedy, decided to take matters in hand. Kennedy issued a $5 ‘scrip’ or book of paper tickets. The scrips were used as cash at ‘the company store’ and became known locally as ‘Kennedy’ money. Imagine the shock on the face of the bank manager when the Bank of Montreal opened a branch in town in 1934 and found a letter from Toronto simply addressed to: Bank of Montreal, Bissett, P.O., Dominion of Kennedy.


Freezing Giants?

Do you think our Manitoba winters are way too cold? Step back in time 25,000 years ago to Manitoba’s last Ice THAT was cold! As the climate cooled, huge mammals such as mastodons who grazed in swamps and woodlands, and mammoths who enjoyed feeding on Manitoba grasslands got forced out as massive glaciers started advancing from the north. Some of these animals didn’t make it. Mammoth and mastodon bones, teeth, and fragments of ivory tusks have been found in over a dozen locations in Manitoba, mostly in gravel quarries in the southern half of the province. A number of such finds have been made in the Birds Hill area.