Arnprior is a small town located west of Ottawa, in Eastern Ontario, at the confluence of the Madawaska and Ottawa rivers. As it is a town born mainly from the logging industry, it is therefore not surprising that you can find there a forest that is today classified as a national historic site of Canada.
Gillies Grove protects a grove of tall white pines, remnants of ancient forests once found in abundance on the territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg. After the arrival of European explorers, much of these ancient forests in the Ottawa Valley were decimated by the logging industry.
But the forest of Gillies Grove was part of the domain of two preeminent lumber merchants (Daniel McLachlin, then David Gillies) and was preserved by its owners for 125 years. In 1937, Gillies had a Colonial Revival house built there to showcase how timber harvested and milled by his company could be used for a construction project.
After Gillies and his wife died, the property was bought out by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who eventually put it back on the market as it was too expensive to maintain. Several Arnprior residents feared the grove would be converted to residential lots, but Gillies Grove was eventually bought out by Nature Conservancy of Canada. NCC still manages the site today.
Gillies Grove was declared a national historic site not only because of its heritage home, but also because the forest is one of the last remaining old growth eastern white pine forests in Eastern Ontario. Among these old white pines, you can find there some of the tallest trees in the province.
It is possible to explore Gillies Grove via a few trails. I followed the White Pine Loop, which is a little less than two kilometres, since I just wanted to see these famous tall white pines. From the trail, it is possible to see the heritage house between the trees, but as it is a private property, it is not possible to get close to it.
So, failing to be able to observe closely the house, I continued my hike and walked up to the shore of the Ottawa River, located nearby. As usual the river was majestic, even under its ice cover. Gillies Grove is definitely a good option for a short walk if you are passing by Arnprior!