Carbide Wilson Ruins by Shawn M Kent (Quebec Photo Spot)

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Carbide Wilson Ruins - Photo by Shawn M. Kent

History of the Carbide Wilson Ruins

The Carbide Wilson Ruins are one of the best-hidden gems of Gatineau Park. Situated at the edge of Meech lake, this was once the site of a bonafide secret scientific laboratory. The Carbide Wilson ruins once belonged to prolific Canadian inventor Thomas Leopold “Carbide” Willson. Thomas Willson rose to prominence for discovering a cheap way to make calcium carbide, which produces acetylene gas when exposed to water. Acetylene gas became an essential way of creating lights worldwide and made Thomas Willson a small fortune. Fearful of someone stealing his future discoveries, he bought a plot of land near Meech Lake, where he built a hydroelectric-powered laboratory to continue researching.

Sadly, while practical, his subsequent discoveries failed to garner commercial interest like his initial calcium carbide discovery. Eventually, his fortunes would dwindle, and while visiting New York in 1915 to raise funds for a hydroelectric dam project in Labrador, he passed away at the age of 55.

His laboratory, now forgotten, would slowly decay and become the Carbide Wilson Ruins. Today the ruins are all that remains—a concrete shell of a building and hydroelectric turbine sitting next to the waterfall that once powered it.

Carbide Wilson Ruins Hike

Hikers will find the abandoned laboratory by hiking to the end of a well-maintained and marked park trail in the vast Gatineau Park. So figuring out how to get to the Carbide Wilson Ruins isn’t much of a secret anymore.

The route is approximately 4.3 kilometres from the nearest parking at the P11 parking lot near O’Brien Beach. P11 is the best place for Carbide Wilson parking, but as it is the main parking lot for a popular beach in the summer, you may have to arrive early or in the off-season to get a spot. Once parked, follow Trail 36 up and into the woods. You will almost immediately cross a paved road. If you’re interested in where the road goes that the trail cuts across, this side road leads to the O’Brien house. A lovely 1930s mansion that until 2019 operated as a boutique hotel.

Trail 36 winds through the park’s woods and is quite pleasant and suitable for children, but there are a few steep sections. The trail also has a bridge with some small waterfalls where Meech Lake and Little Meech Lake’s offshoot join. Eventually, you will depart the main course taking a hard right at the signpost that reads Carbide Wilson Ruins. Side note, the sign is likely misspelled as it should be Willson with two “L”s. (we went back and forth on the spelling for this article and decided to go with the sign’s spelling).

Carbide Wilson Map

The trail to the Carbide Wilson Ruins is easy to follow and will end at the waterfall and abandoned laboratory. The map below shows the exact location of the ruins to help you plan your photographic adventure. When you arrive, small tip, avoid bathing in the waters as there are leeches.

(Chelsea, Quebec, Canada)



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