CANCELLED: Gatineau Park: <p>Thomas 'Carbide' Willson Ruins

Note:  The NCC has closed Gatineau Park because of the ice storm, and the word is that they will not re-open it until mid-May.  Unfortunately, we will not be able to hold this walk.  

This is author and historian Katharine Fletcher’s favourite trail in Gatineau Park.   Not only are the woodlands and lakes stunningly beautiful, but there is tangible, visible human history to discover, particularly in the ruins of Thomas "Carbide" Willson's super-phosphate fertilizer plant and generating station, often called "The Mill."

During this lively walking tour, Katharine will talk about the early settlers who had farms here, and reveal some fascinating observations about natural history.  She says, "We may find ephemeral spring flowers blooming, such as Dutchman’s Breeches, Wake-robins (red trilliums), and  Bloodroot."  She encourages participants to join the conversation, recognizing that many of us have appreciated this park for decades — or have just discovered it.  

Katharine will proceed at a slow pace, giving ample time for examining plants and bird-watching — and discussing early pioneers lives "up the mountain."


We meet at O'Brien Beach Parking Lot (P-11), at the south-east tip of Meech Lake, on chemin du Lac Meech (Meech Lake Road) in Gatineau Park, northwest of the village of Old Chelsea. 

From Ottawa, take Autoroute 5 north to Old Chelsea Rd exit, turn left (west) on Old Chelsea Rd. through the village and continue on chemin du Lac Meech to Parking Lot 11.   

From the parking lot, we'll take the gravel access road past O'Brien House, connect with the TransCanada Trail (formerly Discovery Trail) #36, cross the bridge which spans the conjunction of Meech and Little Meech lakes, and then hike further along #36 to the turnoff to the ruins of Thomas Carbide Willson's dam and fertilizer plant. The site is about half a kilometer from the turnoff.  Round-trip distance is about 2.5 km.

The walk follows undulating, rocky, sometimes tricky trails (one short descent is both steep and rocky), mostly inside the protection of a mature forest. The terrain is unsuitable for wheelchairs, walkers, or anyone who is not in reasonably good fitness. Wear appropriate, comfy footwear for uneven footing/terrain, sunhat, and bring both camera and binoculars – plus water and a snack. Don’t forget insect repellent: black flies could be out.

Note regarding wet weather:  This hike will proceed rain or shine, unless there has been (or is) heavy rain, which renders trails impassable.  If that occurs, we will update this page accordingly, so please check back to this site on the morning of the walk for information.

Katharine's book Historical Walks:  The Gatineau Park Story includes a detailed description of this walk, including a map, on pages 99–100.  Katharine will have copies of her book available for sale at the walk. 

About the walk leader

Katharine is a visual artist, freelance writer, and author of several guides to the National Capital region (Historical Walks: The Gatineau Park Story; Promenades historiques dans le parc de la Gatineau ; Capital Walks: Walking Tours of Ottawa; Capital Rambles: Exploring the National Capital Region); and with her husband Eric Fletcher, co-authored Quebec Off the Beaten Path .  Katharine writes environment, nature, gardening, and eco-tourism columns and features for such markets as explore magazine,, Canadian Tourism Commission, Ottawa Outdoors Magazine, West Quebec Post, Pontiac Journal, Aylmer Bulletin, and . She teaches art with Get Art (, leads custom hiking/walking tours, and is a public speaker specializing in raising awareness about the human and natural history of Ottawa, Gatineau Park, and the National Capital Region; as well as writing and publishing. 

Eric Fletcher is a photographer, cartographer, and document management specialist. When thirty publishers rejected Katharine's first book, Historical Walks: The Gatineau Park Story, he said, "Let's publish it ourselves." And so, they did!  Eric proofread not only the text, but created all the maps -- to ensure hikers could follow along safely and accurately . Since that first edition's publication in 1988, Eric and Katharine have worked together as freelance writers, editors, and publishers.  They travel the world together, and Eric's photographs can be enjoyed viewing such stories as Serengeti of the Rockies on

Katharine and Eric Fletcher also are on the Gardens and Gifts Tour in the Pontiac, Quebec, where they showcase the gardens at Spiritwood, their hobby farm, and sell their own and other artists' work (

Web presence:
Discover my world at:
Artist FaceBook page:

Twitter: @Spiritwood
Instagram: @spiritwoodkf

Note that Katharine Fletcher will also be leading a walk at the Central Experimental Farm.  Details.  


Katharine & Eric Fletcher and Eric Fletcher

Date:Sat May 5, 2018
Time:2:00 PM
Duration: 1 hour
Language: English
Start:O'Brien Beach, Meech Lake
Area:Gatineau Park
Distance:2.0 kms

The walk follows a rocky, undulating trail that is not accessible to wheelchairs or strollers.

Note:  Heavy rain could make the trail impassable.  Check this page on Sat morning (May 5) to confirm that the walk will go ahead. 

Cover of Katharine's book of Gatineau Park walks.
Volunteer to Marshal This Walk