I visited Morris Island Conservation Area last year and Purdon Conservation Area two weeks ago. So there was only one conservation area left for me to visit in the Mississippi River watershed area in Eastern Ontario: Mill of Kintail.
The Mill of Kintail Conservation Area is located just a few minutes northwest of the village of Almonte, in Lanark County, along Indian River. In addition to having several trails, there are also some historic buildings, including an old grist mill, named Mill of Kintail, which has now been converted into a museum. As I love museums as much as hiking (and those that are open these days are quite rare), I must admit that I was really looking forward visiting the Mill of Kintail Conservation Area.
As soon as I arrived, from the parking lot I first followed the trail along the river (the 600m long Riverside Trail). The trail immediately seemed pleasant to me. It was well wide and well-marked, and it followed gently a small ridge overhanging the river (which, at this point, looked more like a stream). I could see the river here and there between the trees, and the sound of its waters made the hike even more pleasant.
After meeting in the woods what looked like an old abandoned cottage, I arrived at the old mill, now a museum. Built in 1832 by Scottish pioneer John Baird, this stone mill was restored and turned into a summer residence and a studio a century later by local sculptor and surgeon Robert Taitt McKenzie. A good part of the museum is devoted to his works. But before visiting it, I decided that I wanted to continue my hike first.
Near the museum, a wooden bridge spans the river and on the other side, three trail options are available. I decided to follow the Forest Hike Trail because at 2.9 kilometres, it was the longest and allowed to follow a loop covering a large area of the site’s 154 acres.
Small note: due to the current pandemic, the conservation area recommends following the trails clockwise to avoid encountering other hikers. But I’m slightly dyslexic, so I took the path in the wrong direction, which I realized only halfway. Don’t be like me. Follow the instructions.
As its name suggests, the Forest Hike Trail meanders through the forest for almost 3 kilometers. Aside from a few metres in a large field filled with wildflowers, it remains mainly under the cover of tall trees. It is not completely flat, but its elevation makes it a not-too-hard fun exercise.
After almost 3 kilometres, the trail finally brought me back to the stream/river. As curious squirrels watched me, I wondered if I had enough energy to follow another of the loops, but with the intense heat, I decided it might be better to walk back to the museum and visit it.
Visiting the museum doesn’t take too much time, but it’s still worth it if you like history and random artifacts. It is dedicated to the two darling children of Lanark County. Robert Taitt McKenzie, former owner of the place, and James Naismith, inventor of basketball (both were actually good friends). So there are old basketballs, sports memorabilia, trophies, some old furniture and several McKenzie sculptures (including the only existing copy of his most famous one).
I felt like there was even more to see on the site. An education area on the ecosystem of the stream, other old buildings, a space for hosting summer camps. It’s really a beautiful place, which makes me want to come back to explore the trail that I have not hiked. It’s not for nothing that Mill of Kintail is on the Lanark County Seven Wonders List, which also includes the Purdon Conservation Area, Murphys Point Provincial Park’s Silver Queen Mine and Stewart Park in Perth.