Although not inside Ottawa, the abandoned mill near Meech Lake, QC is a gorgeous must-see spot. It's the kind of place you wish you and your friends would stumble upon while trekking through forest. All you have to do is drive 20 minutes outside Ottawa to O'Brien Beach, pay for parking (or don't), take the right-hand path and walk about 10-15 minutes to make your wish come true.
At first glance, the place appears magical; a steady-flowing current on a rocky river going through what looks like a small, old castle. As much as I would like to believe that, a friend of mine told me moments after we got there that it's an abandoned processing mill. The man who owned it, Thomas Wilson, was a Canadian inventor who had the mill built in 1911 after discovering how to create calcium carbide, an ingredient needed to make acetylene gas. Wilson apparently withdrew all his assets from his other ventures to make this mill, only to have them absorbed by his investor J.B. Duke (owner of the American Tobacco Company monopoly) when Wilson couldn't meet the deadline for production. At least, that's how the story goes.
After my initial awe had passed, I began to poke around. To my left was a large, short tunnel that leads down into the main part of the abandoned building. As much as I wanted to slide down into the building, the tunnel was partially fenced off and dirty. Instead I continued straight across a small bridge to the spot where I can only guess the actual mill used to be. From here, you get a great view of the path, the building, and the small body of water the current flows through behind the building.
If this not-so-hidden gem of a spot had a downside, it would be its popularity. You may feel you are alone while there, but there are usually people coming and going regularly, though usually no more than two or three groups are there at a time. The mill is also reputable for its naturalists, so be prepared to see some skin if you choose to go.
Photo Credit: Adam Brown