I have a secret to tell you! Secret Lake isn’t a lake – it’s a pond. OK that may be a bit of an exaggeration – or maybe not. This is a newly opened “lake” in the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. I think the site was only about two years old at the time of our visit.
In the spring we were camped on Crab Lake, (another lake in the Kawartha Highlands), when we had a visit from a couple Rangers. While we were talking about the park they told us that Secret Lake was their favorite site in the park. They described it as the Kawartha Highlands Machu Picchu. It’s the tiered features that make the site interesting.
Secret Lake was booked every weekend throughout the summer so we thought we would go for a short two night trip mid-week.
The portages are short but putting in and taking out wasn’t easy because you can’t turn the canoe parallel to the shore – someone needs to get muddy. When we finished the first portage we saw this giant marsh and wished we had packed our binoculars so we could find the next portage sign. We had a general idea where we were going so we pushed off and paddled the channel on the far right (it looked more open). It was a very beautiful paddle as we made our way through the lily pads! The portage is on the left, maybe 1/3 of the way down the marsh – or less.
So what is the difference between a marsh and a swamp? I found this blog interesting and helpful.
Within minutes of putting in at Secret Lake we arrived at our site. I can see why the Rangers loved it – it is unique and private.
We were tired and very hot so we were more than ready for a swim (it was over 40 degrees Celsius and humid). You can imagine how we felt when we discovered there really wasn’t any place to swim at the site. It was very muddy at the take out and the rest of the shoreline was steep. Deadwood in the water removed some of the other swimming options.
One of the things we love most about camping on hot summer days is jumping into the water to cool off. Apparently this was not to be the case on this trip. It had been a very hot dry summer so perhaps the swimming would be better other years – but I don’t think so.
Things we loved about Secret Lake:
- We had the whole lake to ourselves because there is only one campsite. We expected to see people fishing but no one came in.
- The view from the site was great.
- The tiered site was unique – not to mention a great leg workout.
- The flowers on the “lake” were very pretty.
- The site was very, very quiet – no motor boat traffic.
- We saw many different types of birds.
Things we didn’t love about Secret Lake:
- The swimming at the site was non-existent. We did paddle across the “lake” to a rock with a swimmable path between the weeds. Not the ideal site on this very hot and humid trip. There was a cairn down the shore from our site that could have marked a swimming spot – but it was steep for climbing out.
- Our dog swam at our site and came out covered with mud – he was pretty proud of himself. We had to take him across the lake for a “clean-off swim” before letting him in the tent each night.
- The deer-flies were so bad! Then … we had a one hour bug-free break before the mosquitoes came out. We had bug jackets but it was too hot to wear them so no campfire – just a mad dash to the tent.
- The tent sites are so cute, nestled at the base of rocks BUT that becomes a problem in the rain. Water runs down the rocks and sits in the flat tent pads. We picked the tent pad that looked like it had the best drainage – but it rained hard one morning and we had a river running through our vestibules.
- Not a lot of choice for getting drinking water that tasted fresh unless you paddled out to the centre of the “lake”.
We have a rule – no using campsites that we don’t have booked. But on this trip we broke our rule. On the paddle back out Long Lake we stopped at an empty campsite for a swim and it was the best swim we’ve ever had.
So is Secret Lake a Lake or a Pond? I’m still not sure but when I searched pond vs. lake and found this helpful: “If the water is deep enough that light does not penetrate to the bottom, and photosynthesis is limited to the top layer, the body of water is considered a lake.” For more information …
Let me end with another secret…we will never be going back to Secret Lake.
Rating: The paddle down Long Lake is always nice especially during the week when there isn’t a lot of boat traffic. The portages are very short and easy but the put-in and take-outs are not as accessible as some. Did I mention that the site is not ideal for swimming? I think this would be an ideal site in the fall when swimming isn’t important. This site would not be great for small children – for a bunch of reasons. We hear the fishing is very good.
Lakes: Long Lake to the portage at the entrance to Loucks Lake > to a Marsh > to Secret Lake.
Map: Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/kawarthahighlands/map