I stayed on this site in October, 2016 and it was one of my favourites from the summer. It’s a great spot, close enough to the highway 60 corridor that you can get to it with young kids to give them their first taste of the back country, but far enough away that you don’t feel like you’re breathing exhaust. If you start from the Rock Lake access point there’s only one (short and easy) portage to get to Pen Lake, and the site isn’t that far from the end of the portage, making it really convenient for day trippers, voyageurs and, apparently, marauding bearsharks.
Location/Terrain: Located about a ten minute paddle from the Rock/Pen portage at the northern end of Pen Lake. The site is the north facing one on the small island that separates the first small part of Pen Lake from the larger part. The terrain is very flat and easy to navigate. The edges are all gently sloping rock down to the water and the interior is hard packed dirt with a bit of green … something, growing here or there. Great tree coverage in the event of high winds, but not so much that it blocks views out to the lake. As an added bonus, this is the only site on the island, so it’s nice and private.
Canoe Landing: You can pull your canoe up pretty much anywhere on the gentle rock slope that does a half circle around the northern side of the site. We pulled up on the east side, where there’s a small path through the trees and into the site proper. Very easy to load and unload from here.
Tent Sites: At least a couple of good, flat spots. My buddy on this trip had a hammock tent and there were a number of well spaced trees for that as well. The ground was hard, as ground is known to be, but I remember this stood out to me moreso than at any other site in 2016. That was probably also a function of the fact that it was getting down to zero at night, so the ground was likely firming up. Or not. I’m not a dirt scientist.
Thunderbox: Away from the site and in good shape considering it was the end of the season on what I imagine is a really busy lake/site.
Fire Pit: Well built, with a couple of solid log benches around it. Not that we needed them. The nice thing about camping on Pen Lake is that the easy portages leading into it mean you can cart in large and unwieldy camp chairs if you feel so inclined. Which we did. I couldn’t find a regular grill, but there was one of those tall, four legged iron (I think) grills that I’ve never actually cooked on but that make for really handy tables. So no rating on the “I wouldn’t put something that’s going in my stomach on that” scale for this site.
Accessories: Potentially some kind of aquatic or semi-aquatic bearshark who will splash around the site all night, but apart from that, nothing.
Swimability: It was mid October, so we didn’t swim. That being said, this strikes me as a very swim friendly site. As I mentioned above, the rock slope into the water is gradual and would make for easy access for people of all ages.
Views: Great views to the west, north and east. We got both a nice sunset and a nice sunrise.
Drawbacks: Very few. This is an island, and on a popular lake, so there’s very little wood near the site. This is easily fixed by hopping in the canoe and trolling the shoreline nearby.