I stayed on this site in August, 2017. I’ve always had a bias against staying on Joe Lake, mostly because it’s so close to the Canoe Lake access point and is usually pretty busy. That being said, Joe is actually a really nice lake. If it were further into the interior it’d probably be one of my favourites. It’s got a little bit of everything: cliffs for jumping, access to a number of different lakes, and, at least in this case, pretty decent sites as well.
Location/Terrain: Located about halfway down the eastern arm of Joe Lake, on a small point on the north shore. It’s about a 20 minute paddle from the Canoe Lake portage, probably less if your passenger isn’t actively working against you by dragging their paddle and trying to create the biggest rooster tail possible. The site is set on a slope with a series of levels. The first level holds the fire pit and two of the tent spots, the middle level exists, and the third holds another tent site and, not far away, the thunder box. There’s a bit of climbing involved in using this site, unless you’re a small group and you don’t plan on using the washroom. Then you’re fine sticking to the first level.
Canoe Landing: There’s a really good canoe landing that I didn’t notice until the next morning. It’s to the far right of the shoreline, just past where the rocky parts end. It’s a perfectly sized little canoe slip in the underbrush that you can easily pull into, and then pull the boat up out of. If you don’t use that it’s also not that difficult to pull the boat up to the rocky ledges and unload that way, but honestly, why would you do that when there’s already an awesome slip waiting for you?
Tent Sites: Three decent ones. The flattest is tucked away in the woods to the right of the camp site proper, on the same level as the fire pit and just past the canoe landing. There’s another spot right on the water that gives a great view, but is on a bit of a slope (this is the one we used, I slept well, my daughter slept even better but ended up rolling down to the bottom of the tent. I don’t know if that’s cause of the slope or because she runs marathons in her sleep). The third site is also very flat, but it’s up on the third level and isn’t that far from the thunder box.
Thunderbox: Behind the third tent site, but not that far away. The box is in good shape, although it’s built on a slope, which means that you have to use the handy log someone’s left there to prop the lid open if you want to use it.
Fire Pit: Well built, but exposed to the wind. It’s not a huge problem, there are plenty of decent rocks available to build up whichever side is getting blown on, but it might require a bit of finesse to get a fire going on a windy day. Or kerosene. Whichever works best. The grills on this site are both rusted out and broken. Bring your own.
Accessories: Someone has built a really great pulley system to act as a bear hang. It’s down near the canoe landing and the first tent site (which, now that I think about it, isn’t an ideal location. I don’t think I’d want to hang my bear piñata right beside my tent). There’s also a great boulder/stone wall right beside the fire pit that acts as a counter/windbreak/climbing gym for five year olds.
Swimability: There’s a decent swim area to the left of the site, when looking at the site from the water. It does require some climbing to get in and out on the rocks, but they’re navigable. My daughter was able to get in and out pretty easily, although she is part sea monkey, so maybe she’s not the best person to use as an example. The underwater terrain is rocky. Watch where you step.
Views: You’ve got a nice view of your section of Joe Lake, but the time of year we were there we didn’t get much of a sunrise or sunset view (you can fix that pretty easily by taking your canoe out into the middle of the lake, because the sunrises and sunsets are both pretty spectacular on Joe). There aren’t a lot of trees obstructing the view from the fire pit.
Drawbacks: Probably just the number of levels the site is built onto. Climbing to and from the third level would be an annoyance, I guess.