Kempt Quarry Recreation Site

Some of Nova Scotia’s most beautiful parks and protected areas contain former mines and quarries! For example, the Kempt Quarry Recreation Site was quarried in the early 1900s and today it is a beautiful lake used for swimming, boating and picnics.

The Patterson Quarry opened in May 1915. It employed 12 men and five horses that year and produced 2500 tons of gypsum.

The quarry was 2.5 kilometres from its shipping pier on the shore of Minas Basin. The 1915 Department of Mines annual report described the rough road to the pier as “a corduroyed road with plank wheel-ways for carts from the pier to the quarry.”

The report also said, “The plaster is of the best quality and work will be continued during the winter.” (Gypsum was often called plaster historically because it is a key ingredient in plaster of Paris.)

In 1916, the Patterson Quarry employed ten men and five horses, but its production was only 1200 tons, less than half the previous year’s. The quarry is not mentioned again in Mines department annual reports, so it presumably shut down not long after.

There was also small quarry about one kilometre to the east, but little is known about it.

In 1956, the Department of Mines’ drill rig was used by B. A. Parsons to assess the gypsum reserves around the former quarries. Sixty-nine holes were drilled but the exact locations of the drill holes are no longer known. They showed a gypsum thickness ranging from 1.8-39 metres, which, according to a 1991 government report, suggested a small quarry could still be operated there “to supply the spot market.” That is unlikely to ever happen since Nova Scotia has so many other, much larger gypsum deposits.

Former mines and quarries often become lakes because they naturally fill with rainwater and water from underground springs. Water is pumped out of most mines/quarries to keep them from filling so when operations are done and the pumping stops, the sites fill naturally.

The water at the Kempt Quarry Recreation Site is clear and clean, and tested regularly by the West Hants Recreation Department. It’s a great spot for swimming. It has rocky ledges to leap off and a shallow area for kids.

Today, before they even start mining, companies must get government approval of reclamation plans and post reclamation bonds (money in escrow, basically) that ensure funds are available to reclaim sites. Lakes and wetlands are often part of reclamation plans.

Gypsum’s main use is in wallboard/drywall. Gypsum is 21% water at the molecular level so it slows the spread of fire and helps save lives. The walls of an average home contain about seven tons of gypsum.

Several quarries operated in Cheverie about two kilometres north of the Kempt Quarry Recreation Site. See their story at