a peek inside the fishbowl

05 Aug, 2014

Road trip to the ‘Prior, part one (walking ferns, old ruins, and poop)

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Ottawa for kids|Easy ways to make kids happy|Ottawa

We were itching for something to do with the kids in Ottawa and we wanted it to be free, or very close to it, so we decided to ignore our recent experience(s) with mosquito-infested hikes and find a new trail to try, this time closer to home.

Mark did a bit of research and we settled upon the Macnamara Nature Trail in Arnprior. It’s a fairly easy trail (only 4km) and not too far from Ottawa.

Macnamara Trail, Arnprior

This trail has an interesting history. Unlike many bigger area trails, this one is actually on private land, owned by Nylene Canada Inc., a supplier of nylon “to the automotive, packaging, wire and cable, injection molding, roto molding and carpet industries.” In fact, you drive right past the Nylene parking lot in order to reach the trail (which may be puzzling if you are looking for a more remote starting point). It’s part of a protected area that was explored and named after Charles Macnamara, who lived in Arnprior from 1881 to 1944. According to the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club (which was named after him), Charles was a naturalist and photographer who documented “wild orchids, birds, beavers, springtails (tiny soil insects, one of which bears his name), and the natural history of the Arnprior area” and his photos provide one of the “best available visual records of the early Canadian lumber industry.” I thought that was pretty cool.

While were in the trail parking lot sorting out our backpacks and divvying up the water supply, a fellow who was getting into a pick-up truck parked next to us told us the bugs were “really bad” on the trail. And so, we did the only thing we could do, we doubled up on the Muskol and ventured forth, feeling optimistic (or maybe it was just me) that it couldn’t possibly be as buggy as the trails we experienced at Presqu’ile recently.

We were right, and it turned out to be a lovely stretch of trail that was quite kid-friendly.

Sidebar: if you’re on a hike it helps to know what you’re looking at, which is why we enjoy interpretive trails so much. At Macnamara there were supposed to be trail guides at the start, but there weren’t any to be had when we were there. I really recommend printing one before you head out or downloading it in PDF format and loading it on to your phone. It’ll make the trip a lot more interesting for everyone, because there are definitely things to see that could use some explanation.

For example, the trail passes by an abandoned lime kiln:

Abandoned Lime Kiln along Macnamara Trail, Arnprior

It also passes a not-too-tall lookout overlooking a marsh, where we stopped to eat our lunch (see pic) because it was virtually bug-free. (Yay!)

Macnamara Trail alternates between easy dirt trails (sprinkled with wood chips in soggy parts) and boardwalk. I like how the cattails were encroaching here:

Macnamara Trail, Arnprior

Other points of interest included tall trees with crazy burls, mossy escarpments, and walking ferns, the name of which refers to its method of propagation. (When a frond touches the ground it starts a new fern, hence making it appear as though it’s “walking” through the woods.) The same area also featured a startling amount of historical porcupine poop. (Kids sure love poop stories eh? It never seems to fade. See labelled photograph here.)

There were a lot of neat species of fungi and interesting deadfall along the trail too. As for critters, it was CHIPMUNK CITY in there. I have never seen so many. We should have kept a count. As we walked we made up names for all of the different chipmunk neighbourhoods we passed by: Black Pond, Fern Hill, Birch Towers, Soggy Bottom, Marshy Way… fun stuff.

What you need to know about Macnamara Nature Trail:

  • Macnamara Nature Trail begins on McNab Street in Arnprior. Look for the Macnamara Trail parking lot on the right after the entrance to the Nylene Canada plant, which is at 200 McNab St., Arnprior)
  • Bring bug spray, snacks and water. Kids are never too young to carry an appropriately-sized backpack!
  • Want to take it up a notch? Pack a picnic. There are a few park benches along the trail, or do what we did and eat at the lookout.

After our hike we decided we needed to find a spot to rest and take in a bit of scenery, preferably bug-free. More on that tomorrow.

4 Responses to "Road trip to the ‘Prior, part one (walking ferns, old ruins, and poop)"

1 | Brenda A

August 5th, 2014 at 3:31 pm


Beautiful spot! A new gem to us. Thanks!

2 | Road trip to Arnprior, part two >> a peek inside the fishbowl

August 6th, 2014 at 3:43 pm


[…] Click here for part one of this post about our road trip to Arnprior. […]

3 | Jen Hughes

August 13th, 2014 at 12:32 am


General hiking question for you: When you do these family hikes, do you take the dog? As our kids get older I’d like to do more of this (I do plenty on my own with the dog now), however so many trails are leash-only and that’s just not going to cut it with our pooch. Yet at the same time I can’t imagine being outside in the woods and fields without taking her. Thoughts?

4 | andrea tomkins

August 13th, 2014 at 9:08 am


Hi Jen,
Many trails don’t allow dogs, so we’ve learned to always check before we head out. (FYI, the one i’ve described above does not allow dogs.)

We have gone on trail walks with Piper. She loves it, and why wouldn’t she? It’s DOGGIE HEAVEN. I always make sure to bring some extra water and a bowl for her, and a small blanket to protect ourselves from her muddy paws on the drive home. She’s not an off-leash dog at all, so this isn’t an issue with us. It sounds like you might be limited to places like Bruce Pit if you’re off-leashing it…

comment form:


Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Jenn Jilks: That is really exciting! Break a leg!
  • fun88: I was excited to discover this page. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely liked every part of it and i also
  • Gretchen Humphrey: I had a beautiful bee& birdbath filled with a solar fountain and dozens of antique marbles that were suddenly disappearing. At first I thought my
  • Jinjer: I am sobbing reading this post. And you're right, companion is not enough. Little furry treasured gifts that they are. Thanks for sharing cutie-pi
  • Karen: Dear Andrea, Mark and your daughters I am so very sad for your family xxx Piper was/is my favourite Instagram post. You shared with us so intimately
  • Christina Banuelos: Thank you for sharing Pipers life with us. Your posts of Piper brought me joy. Every time I see your post and see what kind of mischief Piper was gett
  • Carla Slocum: I am sitting here yet again crying at your loss. We have known that loss with Asta the WFT our first pup but now have the enormous gift of Stryker the

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

Still calling it Twitter