Pockets of Paradise: Village of Appleton

Story and photos by Alison Ball

Sunset over the Appleton Provincially Significant Wetland – from Appleton Bay Park

Visitors have been attracted to the quiet, historic and picturesque village Appleton for decades because of the natural environment and history.  This charming village is situated along the banks of the Mississippi River between Carleton Place and Almonte Ward.  At its core, Appleton is a former mill town.  Now, it is mainly residential, with many surrounding agricultural operations.  Municipally, Appleton is a village in Ramsay Ward of Mississippi Mills.

Christmas lights on the bridge over the Mississippi River

Appleton is seeing a resurgence of families with young children and it continues to have an active older population.  Activities regularly seen in Appleton are walking, running, cycling, skateboarding, canoeing, kayaking, boating, fishing, riding horses, photography, bird watching, golfing, soccer, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and skating.

The boardwalk along the bridge

The main features of Appleton:

  • From the mid-1800s to the early 1990s, there were many mills in the village. Two of the most prominent ones were textiles mills: the first one was situated on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River, where some of the ruins remain, and the second mill was on adjacent property.  For more about the history, see the Appleton Virtual museum exhibit, the Appleton Women’s Institute Tweedsmuir Community History book and the North Lanark Regional Museum (operated by the North Lanark Historical Society).  Historic stone and log houses are prominent throughout the village.
  • Adjacent to the north-west border of the village, and extending on both sides of the river most of the way to Almonte, is an area designated as the Appleton Provincially Significant Wetlands. It was also identified as a candidate for an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.  It is unique because it “is on clay plain landform and offers the only provincially significant representation of riverine marsh, swamp, and upland forest on clay plain” (Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre).  The forest is dominated by Red Maple and Black Ash, with many large Peach-Leaf Willows.  Paddling in the river through this huge wetland feels like it is in the middle of the wilderness, instead of just a few kilometers from town – watch for Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers and many species of waterfowl.
  • The Mississippi Golf Course is adjacent to the south-west border.
  • The run-of-the river Appleton hydroelectric facility was rehabilitated in 1994. Swimming, boating and walking anywhere near the dam are prohibited because of unpredictable currents and rapid changes to water levels.
  • The bridge over the Mississippi River includes a boardwalk to enjoy the river views.
  • The Appleton Bay Park has a play structure, a community apple orchard and a toboggan run. The rudimentary boat launch provides access to a 10 km section of the Mississippi River between Appleton and Almonte. This section is very popular for paddling, boating and fishing.
  • The municipal park at the corner of River Road and Appleton Side Road houses the museum, 2 municipal soccer fields (Lubber’s Field) and a baseball diamond.
  • In the summer, many people come to the Appleton dam park to picnic, take photos or fish. Cyclists are often seen taking a break at the picnic tables.
  • Eleanor Wright park is a municipal park at the end of Duke Street. It is a valuable, mainly undeveloped, green space with paths, a boardwalk and a foot bridge.  This is an opportunity to experience the wild side of Appleton!
  • The entire length of County Road 11 is part of the Trans Canada Trail. As a result, the speed limit is 50 km/hour between Fairway Crescent and the village limit on Wilson Street.  In the village, the speed limit is 40 km/hour.  The Trans Canada Trail continues north to Almonte Ward along the Appleton Side Road.
  • Paved shoulders on the north part of River Road between the bridge and Appleton Side Road (Lanark County) and on the Appleton Side Road from River Road to the Trans Canada Trail that runs parallel to Highway 7, have made cycling much safer.
  • As an alternative to the busy County Road 29, the Rotary Centennial trail provides a safe route for cyclists and pedestrians to travel between Appleton and Carleton Place. It was constructed (in 2005) and is maintained by the Carleton Place Rotary Club (http://www.carletonplacerotary.ca/rotary-trail).  From the Carleton Place end of the trail, cyclists will be able to access the new Ottawa Valley Rail Trail via Ramsay Concession 8.
  • The village is home to a variety of wildlife, fish and birds. Residents often see deer, racoons, beaver, otter, eagles, osprey, herons, Canada geese, ducks, coyotes, bullfrogs and snapping turtles.  Spawning areas have been identified in the Mississippi River in and around Appleton and many waterfowl nest here.
  • Sunsets at the Appleton Bay Park are spectacular.
The community apple orchard at Appleton Bay Park

The Appleton residents strongly support community development projects.  In addition, the Mississippi Mills Beautification Committee has recently led several improvements. Examples include:

  • Community potlucks and activities;
  • Plaques commemorating residents who have made significant contributions to the village (2018);
  • Appleton community orchard (Edible Tree project, 2015);
  • Appleton Wetlands awareness project (2014), which was featured in an international documentary (http://www.alexandracousteau.org/news-2-i/2013/9/19/a-voice-for-the-appleton-wetland);
  • Spring “Pitch-in” clean-up;
  • Guided tours of the Appleton trees, including the stand of large black locust trees along Wilson Street;
  • Daffodils at the dam park;
  • Commemorative table and benches at the dam park;
  • Flower boxes on the bridge;
  • The Mississippi Mills Little Lending Library at the mailboxes;
  • Christmas lights on the bridge;
  • Play structure at the Appleton Bay Park; and
  • Summer outdoor movie.
Daffodils at the Appleton dam park

Appletonians are proud of their village and all that they’ve accomplished to make it a more attractive and enjoyable place to live, while preserving the natural and historic character.  A wish list to make it even better includes:

  • Ensuring that vehicles respect the speed limits;
  • Identifying and developing a safe public swimming area in the village;
  • Improving active transportation by adding paved shoulders to roads in and around the village (especially Wilson Street and the Appleton Side Road to Almonte);
  • Preserving the remaining ruins of the original textile mill;
  • Diverting large trucks (especially gravel trucks) to alternate routes;
  • Improving access by non-motorized water craft to the river;
  • Creating winter trails for cross country skiing and snow shoeing;
  • Improving the use of the Appleton Bay Park as a community park;
  • Planning for a long-term capital project to build an Appleton community centre; and
  • Promoting development consistent with the character of the village and the surrounding natural environment.

Please come and enjoy Appleton and, while you are here, please help us to maintain the quiet, natural, active, residential and picturesque character of our village.

View of the dam from the bridge over the Mississippi River
Ruins of the former textile mill at the Appleton dam