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5. Arnprior

Northwest enterance to Gillies GroveGillies Grove NCC sign.Wide Walking trails in Gillies.Gillies east side | Good insect field on the east side of Gillies Grove.Common Ringlet in the fieldYellow-legged MeadowhawkMacnamara Trail signParking area and start of Macnamara Trail.Boardwalk through interior wetland.Black-capped Chickadee in interior wetlandWhite-faced Meadowhawk in interior wetland.Nice garden on old log.Rare fern in Renfrew County.Large wetland along the Ottawa River.The end of trail viewing stand.

The Gillies Grove

The Macnamara Club website says it best:

An expanse of old growth forest in the north corner of Arnprior, Gillies Grove is a rare remnant of the magnificent forest that once covered this region. The Grove includes Sugar Maple, Yellow Birch, American Beech, Eastern Hemlock and Basswood trees. In one section, a stand of ancient White Pines thrusts high above the surrounding trees. The largest Basswood in Canada once stood here.

The Grove’s ecosystem that has been evolving ever since the Champlain Sea left this region about 10,000 years ago. It harbours multitudes of creatures, some quite rare and elusive. Scarlet Tanagers and Red-shouldered Hawks in summer, Pileated Woodpeckers and Barred Owls year-round, all call The Grove home. Raccoons and flying squirrels hide out in hollow trees and, closer to the ground, Red-backed Salamanders roam through decaying logs.

In spring, a rich array of plants includes a living carpet of hepaticas, Spring Beauties, violets, and both Red and White Trilliums. In summer, the odd doll’s-eyes fruit of White Baneberry and the ghostly heads of Indian Pipe punctuate the lush green understorey.

A National Historic Site, Gillies Grove is a living monument to the human history of the Ottawa Valley. In earlier times, the progenitors of today’s trees sheltered Algonquin people, and then witnessed the canoes of Samuel de Champlain and the coureurs de bois. Present-day trees were seedlings when Archibald McNab, chief of the clan McNab, staked his claim to this land in 1823. They were fully mature when Arnprior achieved town status in 1892. Today the Grove is owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and managed with help from volunteers of the Land Preservation Society of the Ottawa Valley."

Macnamara Trail

The Macnamara Nature Trail in the southeast corner of Arnprior is a window into the past and present natural world of the Lower Ottawa Valley. One of the club’s largest projects to date, its boardwalks, viewing platforms, and benches – constructed entirely by volunteers – allow visitors to explore it without disturbing its wild character.

The trail guide, available at the trailhead kiosk, provides a vivid explanation of the flora, fauna, and human history on view. The trail is made possible by the co-operation of the landowner, Nylene Canada Incorporated, the generosity of the K.M. Hunter Foundation, and the dedication and hard work of club members and community volunteers.

It leads visitors past 19 numbered stops along four kilometres (with an optional half-kilometre branch that leads to a rocky point overlooking the mouth of the marsh where the marsh meets the Ottawa River. Many of its features were re-“discovered” (Algonquin people had known them in the traditional way for centuries) by Charles Macnamara, the club’s namesake, nearly a century ago. When he found a beaver lodge, he lobbied the Ontario government to declare their lands a game sanctuary, since the species was on the brink of extinction from the fur trade.

Among the many plants is the Showy Lady’s-slipper (shown at right), the club’s emblem, a spectacular orchid with one petal enlarged to serve as a landing platform for insect visitors. The pink to red pouch, open at the top, is designed to enlist bees as pollinators. It’s visible between late June and mid-July. Other wildflowers include Blue Vervain, Joe-pye Weed, Swamp Milkweed, Jewelweed and Boneset.

On the geological front, many of the exposed rock outcrops consist of marble, which can be transformed by fire into useful lime, and the ruins of an old lime kiln are still here. Among other flora on view are the Walking Fern clinging to the rocks, a Bitternut Hickory tree, Striped Maple and Hobblebush shrubs, and a multitude of mosses and fungi.

How To Get There

The Macnamara Trail begins on McNab Street in the southeast corner of Arnprior. From Highway 17/417 exit at County Road 29 (exit 180) and head north to Madawaska Boulevard. Turn left onto Madawaska Boulevard and continue for 1km to MacNab Street. Turn right on McNab Street (just after Rona) and look for the Macnamara Trail parking lot on the right after the entrance to the Nylene Canada plant.

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