Merchant Lake – Site 4

Map courtesy of Jeff’s Maps

Closest Access Point: Opeongo (Access Point 11)
Distance To Access Point:  25.1 KM (A day and a half, unless you take a water taxi across Opeongo, then it’s a half day)
Difficulty of Travel From Access Point: Easy/Medium (Paddling Opeongo can be a nightmare. Taking a water taxi across it is a dream. One long portage en route.).
Maintenance Level: Regular
Date of Visit: September, 2018

This site is fine, but has a couple of drawbacks that make me unlikely to want to stay there a second night. If you’re just looking for a place to crash, it’s not bad, but if you want any kind of view or, you know, natural light after four p.m., you can probably do better.

This is about 85% of the site, there’s a bit more space off to the right

Terrain: The site itself is flat and relatively clear and basically marks a low point in between two gradually rising slices of shore. Walking either south or north from the site takes you slightly upward. The ground is mostly free of cover and was, when we were there, semi-water logged in places. It’s a very enclosed site. Trees grow all along the shore and crowd in on the site clearing as well. There’s only a small grade from the water to the clearing, and someone has helpfully installed a couple of steps in that grade to make getting up even easier.

Canoe Landing: There’s a small clear space to pull up the canoe and unload. The underwater approach is relatively free of obstacles and someone has built a very small jetty to act as a … well, I don’t know what it’s for, but it’s there. Because the canoe landing is pretty narrow it might be tough to unload the boat without getting your feet wet.

Fire Pit: This is the best part of the site, by far. Well, the fire pit itself isn’t that spectacular, just a well built circle of rocks basically. But the fire pit area is pretty great. There must have been a crew in there recently with chainsaws (like very recently). Someone has built a very nice set of timber benches around the fire pit that are great for sitting on and are wide enough to act as a counter and Animalopoly board surface.

Tent Sites: There are a few decent spots to pitch a tent or two. In the main clearing you could get two mid sized tents up as long as you don’t mind being close to your neighbour (and close to a stashed Ministry boat). You can also pitch a tent up among the trees just south of the firepit in amongst the trees if you want some more shelter (just keep an eye out for widowmakers).

Swimability: I didn’t swim here. The overgrown shoreline and general coolness of the September air didn’t exactly make swimming inviting. The underwater area is a mix of sand and rock, so it’s probably not bad for wading out on, but I wouldn’t consider this a swimming hotspot.

Thunderbox: This Thunderbox is brand spanking new. Might have been put there by the same folks who built the fire pit benches. It’s also kind of well hidden. We had to do a bit of searching before we found the right path to get to it (you follow the path that leads away from the site just behind the benches. The thunderbox path will be on your right somewhere between 30 and 50 steps down the trail).

Accessories: The fire pit benches I mentioned earlier are pretty much it. There’s also an overturned Ministry boat that’s been stashed there and a helmet that one of the workers must have forgotten, but I imagine those are gone by now.

Views: Almost non-existent from pretty much everywhere on the site. The tree cover is thick all along the shoreline apart from a very small break where you pull the canoe up. Even there, low hanging branches hide most of the lake from view if you’re anywhere but on the shore. If you do go down the shore you get a nice sunrise view across Merchant, but again, your range of view isn’t all that great thanks to the canoe landing being inset on the shoreline. The one bonus of the tree cover is that winds really aren’t an issue on the site. Hooray!

Notes: As I said above, this is a serviceable site but definitely not one I’d want to set up shop on for more than a night. Thanks to the recent work that’s been done by the logging crew we had no trouble finding wood for burning. So that’s a good thing.

Related Trip Report: Into the Wind
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