North Mountain Basalt at Cap d’Or

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The brooding basalt cliffs at Cap d'Or in Nova Scotia

Cap d’Or or Cape of Gold on the northern shore of the Minas Basin in Nova Scotia is in fact a misnomer. The golden glints in the cliffs which gave the place its name when Samuel de Champlain saw them in 1604 were really veins of copper. The glistening copper has now been mostly mined out but the cliffs remain absolutely spectacular. On the cold and misty day that I visited, the dark massive faces of rock looked their most brooding and atmospheric, almost like a fantasy backdrop from a Tolkien inspired scene.

The Jurassic period North Mountain Basalt outcropping at Cap d’Or. Basalt was originally molten lava that was extruded onto the surface about 206 million years ago. This happened in a number of episodes, each event giving rise to rock that had a different appearance. This is most easily seen in images 2 and 4 where the colour and texture of the rock at the top of the cliff is different from that at the base of the cliff. Details of the columnar fracturing that occurred as the lava slowly cooled, can be seen most clearly along the shoreline where the waves have washed the rock.


Donohoe, H. V. Jnr, White, C. E., Raeside, R. P. and Fisher, B. E, (2005) Geological Highway Map of Nova Scotia, Third Edition. Atlantic Geoscience Society Special Publication #1.

Hickman Hild, M. and Barr, S. M. (2015) Geology of Nova Scotia, A Field Guide, Touring through time at 48 scenic sites, Boulder Publications, Portugal Coce-St. Philip’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. ISBN 978-1-927099-43-8.

4 Replies to “North Mountain Basalt at Cap d’Or”

  1. Thank you, Angela. Canada certainly has some spectacular landscapes and geology ….. but so does the UK, much of which I have yet to discover. I am looking forward to it.


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