All of Algonquin

Trip Reports, Campsite Reviews & More

Trip Reports, Campsites & More

Clamshell Lake

Spotlight Lake - October 2023

In our recent Cedar Loop Showdown, I had Clamshell Lake as the number three seed in the tournament. To put it in perspective, this was out of 13 total seeds, and was above better known waterways like Radiant Lake, Cedar Lake and the Petawawa River. While the voters apparently didn’t agree with my putting Clamshell so high, I stand by my love for this little lake. In the immortal words of Seymour Skinner. “Am I so out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong”.

Map Courtesy of Jeff’s Maps

Clamshell Lake is located about 20 kilometers east of the Brent (Cedar Lake) access point (#27), and about 14 kilometers south of the Wendigo Lake access point (#25). Either way, you can get there in a day. In fact, if the wind isn’t blowing on Cedar, the route in from Cedar might be a nicer option. (If the wind is blowing, it could be a nightmare). Whichever route you choose, it’s certainly doable as the first day of a trip, even if you’re not getting started at the crack of dawn (for context, it took us about four hours to get from Clamshell to Cedar, but that was with a perfectly calm day on Cedar. If the wind is up, it could take a lot longer).

Once you arrive at Clamshell you’re greeted with a small, oval(ish) shaped lake. Coming from the Shoal Lake direction, you might be feeling a bit of trepidation. Shoal Lake is basically just a lily pad habitat masquerading as a lake. As you paddle through you could be forgiven for wondering exactly how mucky Clamshell is going to be. The answer is, not at all! Clamshell is a really nice, really clear lake. Sure, there are some shallow spots along the shoreline here and there, but the surprising thing about Clamshell is that it’s actually a really deep lake.

Many, many, (many) years ago Clamshell was the outlet for a large waterfall. The force of the water (over eons I imagine) carved out a deep basin so that the lake bed is 210 feet below the surface directly in front of Clamshell’s sole campsite. Speaking of that campsite, it’s a great little spot. Located in Clamshell’s northeast corner, just across from the portage leading up onto the North River, the site is set on a rocky outcrop with great views across Clamshell and the sound of a nearby (much smaller than before) waterfall gurgling in the background. It’s not a huge site. The majority of it is a sloping slab of bare rock that is great for watching the water and not so great for tents. While there are a couple of level tent pads towards the back of the site, they’re not that far from the site’s fire pit and I’d be worried about errant sparks on a windy day. The best place to set up a tent is by the water, where the rock flattens out and is covered in a layer of dirt and long grass (there’s room for one tent only here, so if you’ve got more than one tent on the trip maybe keep the fires a couple of levels below roaring).  

The highlight, however, of the Clamshell site is the swimming. It turns out that 210 feet is pretty deep. Pair that with some tailor made jumping ledges and you’ve got an awesome spot to swim. But, you know what’s even better than jumping ledges? Rope swings. Rope swings are better than jumping ledges, and Clamshell has one of those too. 

Once you’re well and truly water logged, there’s plenty of exploring to do around the lake. Heading south along the eastern shore, there’s a trail that (eventually) takes you up the hill that dominates that side of the lake. If you’d prefer less bushwhacking with your hiking, you can walk the p330 just across from the campsite that leads up to the North River. There’s a very pretty set of falls/rapids that this portage goes around, and if you don’t mind a few mild pokings, you can cut through the forest near the North River end of the portage to check them out.

And that’s about it for Clamshell Lake. Without the (exceptional) swimming off the front of Clamshell’s site, I don’t know that Clamshell would be more than an overnight stop on your way to somewhere bigger. With the swimming, I’d happily stay here for a couple of nights. You could easily day trip from Clamshell to Radiant, or further up the North River, if you started getting cabin (clamshell?) fever. And if you didn’t? If you just wanted to sit on Clamshell’s shelf of Canadian Shield reading your book in between dunkings? Well that works too.

Spotlight lakes are featured in each issue of The Thunderbox. If you want to get each month’s lake hot off the presses, feel free to add your email in the box below. You’ll receive the monthly Thunderbox update and trip reports as they are published.

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