Merrickville Meander (89km)
Location: Merrickville, Leeds and Grenville, Ontario
Distance: 88.9km (55.2 miles)
Suggested Tire Width: 32mm will be more than sufficient for most of the route. However, if you plan on attempting the several short stretches of unmaintained, a minimum of 38mm (with a bit of tread) is recommended.
Amenities: The village of Merrickville has several convenience, grocery and restaurant options. The hamlet of Kilmarnock is home to Lock 24 and makes for an ideal rest stop. Finally, the village of Toledo, slightly off route at the 40km mark, includes a small general store.
Estimated Gravel Time: 70%
Parking: There are several parking options in the town of Merrickville, including the Merrickville Blockhouse Historic Site and the Merrickville Community Centre. Anyone looking to use Merrickville as a resupply option are advised to park at Lock 24 in Kilmarnock.
Merrickville, often cited as Canada’s most beautiful village, hosts over 100 designated heritage buildings, including one of the Rideau Canal’s four defensive blockhouses, and is home to several artists studios, boutiques and restaurants. It also makes for an ideal jumping off point to explore the farm country and hidden cemeteries south of the Rideau River.
Starting from the Merrickville Blockhouse, head north to Burchill Rd. and the beginning of an extended stretch of firm gravel. Those wishing to avoid the upcoming unmaintained section are advised to make a left onto Richardson Rd., which brings riders back to the main route via McCrea Rd. Otherwise, continue on route to the unmaintained double track west of McConnell Rd.
This 3.5km municipal right-of-way can see its fair share of mud and standing water, so be prepared for the occasional hike-a-bike. Upon reaching the end of the double track, make a left on Wood Rd. and continue on gravel to Municipal Highway 41 and the route’s longest stretch of blacktop.
While the initial stint of pavement can see some high-speed traffic, the outer edge of the gravel shoulder is quite firm and perfectly rideable. After 2km, make a left onto Kilmarnock Rd. This quiet and scenic stretch of asphalt continues for approximately 7km, hugging the shores of the Rideau River as it crosses the Lock 24 bridge (a lovely, if early rest stop).
Eventually, the route returns to dirt via Kitley Line 2, and remains on easy to navigate gravel farm roads (including Willows and Hughes Roads, two brilliant sections of treelined single-lane gravel) for over 10km to County Road 1. Here, the route heads south, returning briefly to pavement before making a right onto Kitley Line 5 to the next section of unmaintained.
While not as long or as rowdy as the previous double track, those wishing to avoid any potential mud are advised to remain on County Road 1 to County Road 8. Otherwise, continue on route, following the unmaintained for just over 1.5km to County Road 8 (the village of Toledo, route’s sole resupply option, can be found just 1km to the east). Here, the route remains on pavement for 3.5km, before returning to gravel via Line 7 Rd.
The loop then stays on dirt for approximately 20km as it winds its way along various local farm roads and woodlots before reaching County Road 7 and a 1.5km section of pavement.
Here, riders return to gravel via Atkins Lake Rd., the beginning of a winding 10km section of treelined gravel which brings riders to the hamlet of Eaton’s Corners and the John Watts and Sons Carriage Factory building. The remaining 10km of the route continues on asphalt back to the start in Merrickville.