Tarn Lake – Site 1

tarn lake
Map Courtesy of Jeff’s Maps

Closest Access Point: Achray (Access #22)
Distance To Access Point:  13.3 KM (a day’s travel with a brutal 4.5 KM portage along the way)
Difficulty of Travel From Access Point: Hard
Maintenance Level: Low. Very low.
Date of Visit: Mid-May, 2018

No matter which direction you’re coming from, getting to this site is a lot of work. Either you’re coming across a 4.5 KM portage down from St. Andrew’s that’s basically straight uphill for the first KM (and straight downhill for the last KM), or you’re working your way around by way of Clover Lake (which is lovely) which involves multiple low maintenance trails that are pretty challenging in their own right. And what do you get for all that effort? Well, according to my trip report from this visit, you get “a dark hole of sadness that’s littered with blowdowns, branches and broken dreams”. So there’s that.

Terrain: This site is built into the side of a hill. The Tarn Lake cliffs are just to the south, so you’d expect there to be some elevation changes nearby. There are sort of level areas for the fire pit and a tent, but for the most part you’ll be walking on a bit of an angle if you stray from the site at all. It’s hard to say how clear the ground would be under normal conditions. When I was there the site was covered with downed branches and trees.

Canoe Landing: The underwater approach is sandy and the shoreline is dominated by tall grasses and a few rocks. You can pick a couple of spots to pull up, none of which are great or terrible. Basically, it’s the same as finding a relatively open stretch of shoreline on any given lake and pulling your boat up. At the very least you’ll be able to get your boat a decent way out of the water for unloading.

IMG_4245Fire Pit: When we were there the fire pit was basically a haphazard circle of rocks semi-submerged in a sea of pine needles. There’s no real structure to the thing beyond a general “here are some rocks, build a fire in me” vibe. I’d be a bit worried about setting the forest floor on fire if I used it for a fire, but as a place to store pine needles it’s great.

Tent Sites: Again, it’s hard to make a judgement because when we were there the site was covered in debris, but even looking beyond the downed branches I only saw at most a couple of spots that looked halfway reasonable. For the most part the site is on a decent slope, and that doesn’t make for great tent pitching.

Swimability: You know what? I bet the swimming is ok. The underwater approach is a gradual and sandy. That might mean you’re working through some lily pads or weeds, but it could also make for a delightful wade in on a warm July day. I don’t know. I was there a week after ice out and there was a zero percent chance I was going to give it a shot.

Thunderbox: Couldn’t find it. I looked. Oh boy did I look.

Accessories: Some really decrepit looking log “benches” around the fire pit. There’s also a stream running through the middle of the site that seems at first like a really nice water feature but is probably a bug factory once things heat up.

How’s this for a view? No, seriously, I’m curious.

Views: The shoreline is fairly well covered by trees, so you don’t have much of a view out to the lake once you’ve taken a few steps inward. In fact, the tree coverage around the site is pretty complete, making for dimmer lighting all around. If you’re standing on the shoreline itself you do have a nice view down Tarn. The tree coverage would mean that you’re probably fairly well protected from most winds, so there’s that.

Notes: This site puts the low in low maintenance. In fairness to the site, it was in pretty rough shape when we went through. Once it’s seen some TLC (Tender Loving Chainsawing) it’ll probably be a pretty standard low maintenance camp site (on that note, I did mention the state of the site at the park gate on my way out, so hopefully they’ve had someone in since then to clean it up). It does give you close access to the Tarn cliffs and the fabulous (I imagine) views you can get up there, but apart from that I wouldn’t make this site a destination.

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Related trip report:
Tarn Lake and a Whole Lot of Walking

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