Purdon Conservation: Wild Orchids in Lanark County

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“Ummm, so orchids next?” was pretty much how the decision was made. Last weekend I came out, but there were only a hand full of orchids with bulbs and even less in bloom. I wasn’t really sure what this week would look like, and ouff, was it ever a gorgeous surprise! Nothing but hundreds of beautiful lady’s slipper orchid in full bloom at the very accessible Purdon Conservation Area. Cancel your afternoon plans or play hookie from work, grab your camera, your loved ones, and get out there this week! Those wild orchids are in all their glory and well worth the drive.

Purdon Conservation

The Low Down

  • Distance: A lovely country drive roughly 130 kms (approx 1hr 20mins) drive from downtown Ottawa.
  • Address: Concession Road 8, Lanark Highlands, ON K0G 1K0
  • Directions: Take the 417 West, to 7 West,
  • Cellphone Range: Yes
  • Trail Distance: 1.8kms of trails/boardwalks.
  • Elevation Gain: none on the main boardwalk where the orchids are and minimal on trails.
  • Duration: 30mins – 2 hrs.
  • Dogs: No.
  • Crowds: Moderate.
  • Washrooms: There is a port-o-potty at the lookout and accessible washrooms at second parking lot.
  • Entrance Fee: Admission through donation.
  • Season: June/July depending on weather for the orchids in bloom, the trails themselves are open Victoria Day to Thanksgiving from dawn till dusk every day.
  • More Information:  The MVCA website keep updates with when the orchids are in full bloom and to access the trail map.

In Good Company

Escaping the crowds in the city celebrating Canada Day, my friend Jada and myself hit the country roads to go hiking for the day. It was the perfect day for it considering that the weather was nothing but blue skies and beaming sunshine. Jada isn’t only a friend, she’s the amazing naturopathic doctor that helped me through burnout. Not quite sure if I would have been able to get a handle on my health without her to tell you the truth. Dr Jada heads up The Healing House in Ottawa. She’s an incredible healer, and lucky for me, also a wonderful hiking friend and conversationalist. First up, we exploring Rock Dunder (one of the best hikes and lookout around) and then it was off to see nothing but wild orchids in Lanark.

Rock Dunder
Purdon Conservation

What to bring

Besides the 10 essentials and what I would normally suggest for hikes, here are the highlights for this particular outdoor adventure:

  • DEET: Bug spray is a MUST for the summer months. Remember your tick protocols. That said, the boardwalk is wide enough and on a hot summer day we found there to be minimal flying bugs on the trails.

PURDON CONSERVATION orchid trail

This is where the Mississippi Valley Conversation Authority and local volunteers get all the praise, this walking trail is very accessible which is rare. If you’re conscious of accessibility, park in the second parking lot to reach the boardwalk to view the orchids. The first parking lot with its mini lookout involves many steps (although well-constructed and also easy to manage there are a lot of them).

The orchid trail is a wide boardwalk and 415m in length. There are several information placards along the route describing the local flora.

Purdon Conservation
Purdon Conservation
Purdon Conservation

PURDON CONSERVATION Lookout

Near the beginning of the trail system from the first parking lot is the lookout which offers a sitting area and partially obstructed view of the lake below.

Purdon Conservation
Purdon Conservation

PURDON LAKE BOARDWALK

If walking the entire trail isn’t quite for you, the bog boardwalk is my opinion the best view point anyways and located near the start of the Ted Mosquin Trail starting point (marked with by a wooden archway).  Follow the softly-padded-with-pine-needles pathway until you reach the wooden boardwalk on your right bring you out for the full view of Purdons Lake.

Purdon Conservation
Purdon Conservation

Ted Mosquin TRAIL and picnic area

How walkable are these trails?! We did them in crocks and flip flops. Soooo, yeah, I’d say it’s pretty easy going here. The Ted Mosquin Trail brings you into the forest by following a path that is well mark with yellow tree shaped markers. There’s plenty of information placards about the flora along the way and the picnic area is the main resting spot at the height of the loop.

Purdon Conservation

If you take the trail counter clock wise (recommended), just past the picnic area is where the trail narrows and tall grass reigns. The best part about this section is the wild flowers, and the worst part was my ever growing fear of lyme disease and ticks while trucking along in sandals (my feet were soaked in bug spray). Amazingly enough, we found no ticks on ourselves, so I consider that a personal win for the day.

Purdon Conservation
Purdon Conservation
Purdon Conservation
Purdon Conservation

The Seven Wonders of Lanark

Lanark County, besides being one of my favourite local area places to wander, has seven wonders for you to explore and enjoy. There is a suggested driving tour of the wonders on the Lanark County website. I’ve seen them all (ah, ya, I kinda like Lanark), and if you’re curious about the hikes, click on the links below for my insights and trail info.

  1. Five Span Bridge (Pakenham)
  2. St Peter Celestine Church (Pakenham)
  3. The Mill of Kintail (Almonte)
  4. Blueberry Mountain (Lanark)
  5. Lady Slipper Wild Orchids (Lanark)
  6. Silver Queen Mica Mine (Perth)
  7. Stewart Park (Perth)

There was an article from NarCity that highlighted the Silver Queen Mica Mine at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park. It ended up attracting a slew of young Ottawa folks to the site to explore…which is great (can you sense a ‘but’ coming up here?!) buuuuuut it failed to mention two important things – first, that the mine is only open to visitors on certain dates and secondly, that the area is tick infested (lots of long grass).  So if you go, by all means go, just check the dates first and dress/protect yourself according Ottawa Public Health.

Purdon Conservation

I Love You a Latte

Since we were coming from Rock Dunder and on our way through Perth, we stopped for coffee and a light lunch at Coutts Coffee. This not so little coffee shop was among my favourite spots to study and write new posts. I mean, it’s comfortable and they make a mean coffee!

Wrapping it up

In my mind, this was the perfect way to finish up the long weekend. It was a peaceful, easy flowing day with great company. And who knew that we had such a local treasure in our backyard Ottawa?! Lanark is a gem, and these orchids top the list. There’s a lot to be said for traveling the world, as long as we don’t forget to explore and appreciate the beauty in our own backyards.

Victoria xo