Horn Lake Day Paddle
Paddling Horn Lake
If you talk to John about growing up with his family on Horn Lake you will see him immediately light up while he recalls endless hours of paddling his cedar canvas canoe to what seemed like distant islands, to high rocky cliffs and to his favourite fishing spots. He speaks of his team of dogs pulling his homemade dogsled along trails and over winding unplowed roads. Recalling annual spring sap runs bring memories of family gathered together at his Mum and Dad’s sugarhouse to boil sap into Maple syrup. He often talks of the many hours of slowly, silently moving through the bush with Sally English, senses on high alert, tracking deer. Sally was a trusted friend and neighbour who shared a deep knowledge of sustaining life in the bush. She also had a passion for the lake and the environment that surrounds its shorelines.
If you are already familiar with Horn Lake, then you will understand why it is a special place in the hearts of many. For the rest of us, it’s a beautiful lake to get to know whether by buying a cottage, by launching a boat or by dropping in a canoe, like we did and going for a paddle.
Horn Lake is located between the town of Burks Falls to the south and the town of Sundridge to the north. The shoreline perimeter runs approximately 22 km with characteristics typical of the Canadian Shield. Its waters are easily accessed by township maintained boat launches on both North and South Horn Lake Roads. Most of the cottages in the area are road access though there are a few inhabited islands for those with a more adventurous heart. Birch Crest resort provides boat slip rentals for water access properties.
The lake runs deep to a maximum depth of a 115 feet, making it known for its self-sustaining lake trout population, whitefish and small mouth bass. It’s not unusual to see hopeful early risers with a line in, patiently waiting for a bite or a boat trolling by in the evening.
The residents have an active property association (HLPOA) who organize social events on the lake such as the annual regatta and the boat parade. HLPOA is also involved monitoring lake quality and water levels, providing fire huts, and advocating for concerns such as development and property taxes. The association conducts general meetings and puts out a regular news letter that connects the Horn Lake community with current information and upcoming events.
Our day began from the South Horn Lake boat launch. We loaded up our young dog ,Tilley and our lunch and headed off to paddle around the perimeter of the lake. The cottages that we passed along the more southern shore seemed numerous and closer together. Many of these are original properties from years gone by. New builds have replaced many of the older cabins but some still remain like the original building that was once the General Store selling groceries, ice cream and gas. It was a gathering place and the hub of the south end of the lake. Long before that a sawmill was located in what is known to some as Sawdust Swamp, located just across the road from where the General Store would later stand.
A shallow sandy area tucked into the southeast corner of the lake was home to several species of birds. We startled red wing blackbirds from the tall grasses and watched a family of ducks as we paddled past. As our day progressed we would be fortunate to see blue herons, several merganser and mallard ducks, as well as loons.
Birch Crest Resort is family owned and operated. It is located just off South Horn Lake Road on the east side of the lake. This small resort offers housekeeping cabins and a more traditional cottage experience. Guests enjoy the large beach and beautiful sunsets that Horn Lake is renowned for. A few boats came and went from the marina but overall the atmosphere was relaxed and not at all busy compared to many other marinas within the Muskoka/Parry sound region. Boat activity out on the lake during this sunny, summer weekend was surprisingly low and the lake relatively quiet though most cottages that we paddled past were occupied.
Cottages and docks continued to line the shoreline for the rest of the paddle until we reached the northern end of the lake where crown land meets the waters edge. This seemingly large piece of crown continues along the north and west shores providing a more rugged and natural landscape.
High rocky cliffs offer a thrill for anyone brave enough to make the jump into the cool water below. Often a small group of boats will gather in the bay at the base of the cliffs to socialize and watch the jumpers. Stopping nearby for a well deserved shore lunch, all three of us enjoyed a cool and refreshing swim. The timing was perfect as we were about half way around the lake from our put in at the boat launch. We had encountered some headwinds earlier in the day and decided not to linger too long at our picnic spot as the wind was changing direction with some incoming clouds and we still had a few hours of paddling ahead of us. ( I’m sure we both would have jumped but we had to go…..well, maybe.)
Horn Lake is a spring fed, land locked lake with a surface area of 497 hectares. There are 4 main islands and many interesting bays and inlets to explore. At one time there was a trail located close to the jumping cliffs that led to a couple other small lakes. Unsure as to whether or not the trail had become overgrown, we decided that it will be another adventure for our next Horn Lake paddle. Our leisurely day on the water began around 9:00 am. Arriving back at the boat launch just after 6:00 pm we had worked up good appetites and were looking forward to a tasty meal.
It was a good day out on the water on a beautiful lake that was fun to explore.