Orchids, Mica, and Trails: Capitalizing on Nature’s Bounty in Lanark
Lanark is known for its quaint communities and historic attractions, including mills and beautiful stone architecture. However, many of the county’s most memorable attractions are the result of thousands—or millions—of years of natural processes. From rare wildflowers to earth’s hidden deposits, head into the backwoods of Lanark for a distinctive outdoors experience.
Ontario is known for its modest goldenrod, simple asters, and – of course – trilliums. However, a trip to Purdon Conservation Area in the Lanark Highlands will showcase one of nature’s most exotic and eyecatching flowers. Making use of a 400-metre, accessible boardwalk trail, everyone can enjoy the view of over 10,000 Showy Lady’s Slipper Orchids (the largest such “colony” in Canada). The best time for orchid blooms is mid-June to early-July. While at the conservation area, you can also enjoy a 1.3-km trail loop for a scenic lookout and picnic area over Purdon Lake. The lake provides perfect shoreline habitat for over 50 species of birds.
Mica at Murphy’s Point
Just twenty minutes south of the beautiful stone town of Perth, Murphy’s Point Provincial Park boasts one of the best mine experiences in the province. Mica mining was a major contributor to the Ontario economy in many towns across the province in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. This was particularly true in Lanark, where the Silver Queen Mine was one of 35 active mica mines in the township. Used in the manufacture of an electrical insulator (for example, in toasters) and fertilizer, mica was shipped along the Rideau Canal to processing factories in Ottawa and Quebec.
The Silver Queen Mine was abandoned almost a century ago, but through careful preservation and an active group of volunteers and park staff, this mica mine hosts a wide variety of fascinating activities that range from spooky to theatrical. Each summer the site is open for selfguided tours into the bunkhouse and mine, and costumed interpreters talk about life in the early 1900s (some of the tours start with a miner’s oatmeal breakfast at the Lally Homestead). You can also enjoy dinner and a play on mining life. On summer evenings, the park hosts spirit walks to the mine where character actors help you relive the past.
Hit the Trail(s)
Lanark boasts plenty of trails to suit every taste and fitness level. Here are just a few:
Central Frontenac Trailway – This 35- km portion of the Trans Canada Trail runs east-west through Sharbot Lake and Glen Tay (near Perth). This rail trail is a fairly easy cycle or walk thanks to its even terrain. Cataraqui Trail – This versatile, four season trail is open to hikers, cyclists, equestrians, snowmobilers, and crosscountry skiers. A part of the Trans Canada Trail, this rail trail runs from Strathcona near Napanee to Smiths Falls. Enjoy 104 kilometres that pass through several villages and small towns.
Carleton Place Trailway – Seven kilometres of the Trans Canada Trail passes through Carleton Place and links Beckwith Trail with the Ottawa- Carleton Trailway. This picturesque trail passes by the beautiful Mississippi, with several perfect picnic spots.
Burnt Lands Mountain Bike Ride – Found in the eastern portion of Lanark, this 18-km, hard-packed gravel cycling trail is found adjacent to the Burnt Lands Alvar, an “Area of Natural and Scientific Interest.”
Kick and Push Trail – Known affectionately as the K&P Trail, this popular rail trail extends from Kingston to Pembroke, passing through Lanark. This all-season trail has varied scenery, including wetlands, scenic bridges, woodland, and communities.