Yes, the Gem Lakes — the Google search keyword that drives about 20% of this website's total traffic. But the only story I've written about the Gem Lakes so far is this one, four years ago.
Since then, I've had dozens of camping trips under my belt and have come to the conclusion that the Gem Lakes are an oddity — I'm not saying there isn't an abundance of deep blue lakes throughout northern Saskatchewan, but I have yet to discover anything quite like the Gems.
Jade Lake, Opal Lake, Diamond Lake and Sapphire Lake are all connected by trails within short walking distance of eachother. They are all stocked with different species of trout, and there are three backcountry campsites for public use. They are small lakes, but clear and secluded. They are almost too perfect, so let's find a reason to harp on them, why not?
The campsite at Opal Lake is pretty glam, complete with picnic tables, fire pits and lots of space for tents. The lake is literally right there, so you have prime access for skinny dippin', skinny fishin', skinny skippin' stones and—you get the point.
However, by evening the small flying insects we later identified as black flies made their appearance. Black flies are not something I'm well acquainted with as they seem to be in relatively low numbers along the Manitoba Escarpment where I typically frequent. On the other hand, Narrow Hills Provincial Park is a much sandier locale and a fertile breeding ground for these tiny bastards, which come out in periodic flushes throughout spring and summer.
By morning, the black fly scourge had reached supernatural levels. This trip was my first time trying Woods brand repellent with icaridin instead of DEET, and let me tell you: it doesn't work. At least not with bugs of this ferocity.
We packed up our camp, flailing wildly. The Black Fly Song by Wade Hemsworth is actually a fair portrayal and warning. At one point it seemed the flies' strategy had changed to kill us by suffocation. I received welts on my forehead and a bleeding fat lip, and I am certain that if we stayed any longer, they would have stolen my wallet. I picked specks of fly matter out of my gear for weeks afterward.
The Gem Lakes are always worth visiting, but for all that is good and holy, check the bug report because camping in a cloud of black flies will confine you a tent no different than when camping in a rainstorm.