Closest Access Point: Canoe Lake (Access Point #5)
Distance To Access Point: 5.5 KM (1 – 1.5 hours)
Difficulty of Travel From Access Point: Easy
Maintenance Level: Regular
Date of Visit: Spring
This is the first campsite on the east side of large island in the middle of Joe lake. By my math, that makes it either the closest or second closest campsite to the Canoe Lake access point, which means that there’s a 95% chance someone else is going to be on it by the time you get there if you’re trying to visit anytime between Canada Day and Labour Day. If you do manage to grab it, congratulations! You’ve snagged yourself a perfectly adequate, but by no means spectacular, site!
Terrain: The first 30 to 40 feet of the site coming up from the water is one massive, sloping, bit of exposed rock face. It is pretty, but damn near useless for anything except practicing your incline walking and, I would imagine, drying wet clothes in the morning sun. Despite this being a rather large site area, the actual usable space is much less. The fire pit and tent sites are fairly close together, and while those bits are flat, that’s about the only part that is.
Canoe Landing: The most obvious canoe landing is the sloping rock face I just mentioned. At the north end of the rock face there’s a slightly less sloped area and a little dip in the shoreline that makes for a reasonable spot to get in and out of the boat. There are, however, two other natural harbour spots on either side of that rock face that aren’t necessarily as obvious but might make for better loading/unloading zones.
Fire Pit: I’d give this pit a solid B. It doesn’t have the shelves and drying areas that some of the fancier pits I’ve seen have, but it does have nice high walls to protect your fire from the oncoming breeze. This is good, because the pit is fairly exposed. There isn’t anything between it and the wind coming off the water, so if it’s a windy day/night you might find the flames jumping and the fire not warming you up as much as you’d like.
Swimability: Definitely swimmable. The underwater terrain is a mix of large rocks and sand. You might have to choose your footing, but that’s what water shoes were invented for. On top of that, that massive rock face isn’t just a good spot to dry clothes. My guess is it would do a decent enough job for any humans who wanted to stretch out and dry out as well.
Tent Sites: As I mentioned above, because so much of the site area is taken up by that sloping rock face, there isn’t a ton of flat ground for tents. That doesn’t mean there aren’t tent spots, just that they’re fairly close to the fire pit and to each other. There’s room for at least two tents near the fire pit, and if you don’t mind a few roots under your back there’s a third spot down near the water at the north end of the site (just past the rock face).
Thunderbox: Sometimes you’ll go looking for the thunderbox and it won’t be under a downed tree. Sometimes, it will be:
Fun story: this thunderbox is a decent hike up a hill away from the site. It’s far enough away that I began to think I must have missed it before stumbling across it. The fact that it’s camouflaged by the downed tree didn’t help.
Accessories: Literally, none. Most sites in the Park have at least a couple of log benches around the fire pit (ranging in quality from semi-rotten logs to miracles of modern bench construction). This site … well, there’s a couple of flat rocks nearby. In other words, if you want to sit on something, bring a camp chair.
Views: Nice view east across Joe Lake. The tree cover along the shoreline is fairly thick, with the exception of the area of the rock face. This means that while you’ve got a good view straight out of the site, it’s also fairly protected from view both coming and going. That’s a good thing, given how busy Joe Lake is. You’re still going to have a ton of rubberneckers waving hello as they paddle past, but at least they won’t be watching you for the ten minutes before and ten minutes after they pass by.
Notes: This site is a solid B-. It’s serviceable. More than serviceable, really. But it’s not an amazing spot. It’d be great for an overnight with the family, particularly with younger kids. If I was on a trip with some buddies or even solo, I’d probably try and head a bit further into the Park before setting up for the night. (Oh, also, the Joe Lake cliffs are just on the other side of the island, less than a ten minute paddle away. If you are staying here, they are definitely worth a visit).