Friday, May 27, 2011

Review: Little Clear Lake, Frontenac Provincial Park

View from site on Little Clear Lake
Location: 50 km North of Kingston, ON
Website: Ontario Parks or Friends of Frontenac
Map: Google Maps
Camping Facilities: Backcountry Exclusively
Grade: C
Stargazing: Not bad, you get light pollution from Kingston though.
Summary: Easy to access, great backcountry experience for novices, sites are too close together
Thoughts: This park is great for people new to the backcountry, it's pretty easy to access off Highway 401, and there are some pretty good hiking trails too. Heck, even the drive to this park is nice. But the bottom line is: the camping stinks.

If I were to tell you that the planners of this park thought it was a good idea to limit the number of sites on each lake to 4 (though Big Salmon, which is a large lake, has 10), you'd probably think that sounds pretty good. I thought it sounded pretty good. But once you see the map, you'll notice where this planning went awry; all the sites are clustered together in groups of 4, no more than 10-20m apart. So essentially, its a little bit of car camping magic in the backcountry, except with none of the luxury and all of the work. So if you camp on a full lake, you better be in a sociable mood.frontenac provincial park camping ontario

I'm not sure of the reasoning behind placing all the sites in clusters. Maybe they wanted to contain the environmental degradation that is associated with setting up camp to smaller pockets. Maybe they thought it facilitates social interaction (maybe that sounds attractive to you and I'm just being a presumptuous jerk about it). But clustering the sites just seems like a waste, given the limited backcountry camping opportunities that exist within a reasonable drive of Southern Ontario's urban areas.

Hiking: I recommend the Doe Lake hiking trail for a few reasons: its got a nice lookout which the park staff have lugged a bench up to, there are some beaver ponds along the way, and you spend a good amount of time walking by the water on the first half of the hike, as well. My only suggestion is that you double back after you reach the look-out bench; the second half of the hike just meanders through forest with nothing interesting to see, so you will be bored (unless you're a tree biologist).

From the park map, I can see that the sites on Buck Lake are just barely contained within the park, with the rest of the bay being private property.  I'll take that to mean that they'll be sharing their wilderness experience with cottagers with power boats.  So it seems the southern part of the park is completely shot.  I'd be very interested to hear people's comments on the more northern parts of the park, do they salvage the lame camping set-up?

Some notes from my limited experience with the park (limited because its just not worth repeat visits):

-Big Salmon Lake: can get chopping due to its size and orientation, but a nice paddle
-Little Clear Lake: The portage in from Big Salmon is a bit hilly and rocky (hence dangerous when wet), but bearable in length. The sites here can be breezy which is good for bugs, and are generally well shaded. See above for an image from a site on Little Clear Lake.

Portage Descriptions (from Park Tabloid, 2011)


  1. I think they cluster the campsite to cater to larger groups and training groups (Scouts etc...). Nice place if you don't have time to drive somewhere better.

    1. Granted, it is useful for groups. Though I would wager most campers are not travelling in large groups and would just find the layout odd.

    2. And I agree, it's better than not camping. Much better.