Mar 9, 2016

What Makes Lucky Log Lucky?

Hey Tamakwa, what’s up with the lucky log? Former Camp Director/ Owner David Bale has the answers! Did you know that The Lucky Log as we know it wasn’t always lucky!

The original Lucky Log was actually TWO logs, a pair of stumps (deadheads) in the water on Little Joe Lake. Since most canoe trips travelled the northern route up toward Burnt Island and Big Trout, they had to pass that way and it was tradition to “thread the needle”…paddle between the two stumps cleanly without allowing the gunwales of your canoe to touch either log stump on either side. They were just a little bit wider apart than the width of a canoe. If all three canoes on your trip made it through without touching, it was an omen for good luck on the rest of your trip. Those who didn’t? Well, you’ll have to consult Jacques the Axeman to find out their fate.

For the first thirty years or so of Tamakwa’s existence, what is now called the Lucky Log was actually a tall tree rising out of the water just off the shore, obviously on the original shoreline but swallowed up as the result of the high water level from swelling the lake size when the South Tea Dam was created to control the flow down the Oxtongue. The tree had a very peculiar shape, almost a quirk of nature, with a vertical row of limbs only on ONE side of the trunk, the lake side, reaching out to the sun. It was bare on all the other sides. That tall dead tree stood out uniquely among everything around it, as the welcoming beacon. For generations it was the symbol everyone associated with arrival to camp. The minute you saw that iconic landmark, a site you could only see in one place in the world… you knew… ”I’m here. I’m home, back at Tamakwa”… much the same as you feel today when you see the Lone Pine. That tall one sided tree was so iconic, you can see it as the main subject of a couple of the camp plaques from the early 1960’s.

There is also a black and white photo of it in the Dining Hall taken by the late Max Bardenstein. He took the photo in the fall of 1964. It’s a good thing he did. The winter immediately after, the tree finally fell due to the harsh winter elements. The stump that remained became the NEW Lucky Log, that you “have to smack” (not too hard) with your paddle for “good luck” as you round the bend embarking on a canoe trip.

By the way, a few years ago, we had a few campers ask, “What does camp do with the Lucky Log in the winter?” We shrecked them into believing we brought it into the Rec Hall for storage. (see below)

There are many aspects of Tamakwa that are special and quirky and often Tamakwans (new and old) find themselves wondering “What’s up with that?” After this summer’s SNL video “What is this?”, staring Rachel “Drama” Manson and Joeley Pulver, our newest blog segment was born!

If you think of anything that makes you think “What’s Up With That?”, please email them to us at and we might just answer them on a future blog!

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