Our Poconos camping and kayaking adventure at Keen Lake Campground and Cottage Resort is one of three outdoor family vacations we experienced in the Mid-Atlantic this summer, along with the Pennsylvania Dutch Country (Circle M) and the Catskills (Jellystone Park at Birchwood Acres). Our goal was to be outdoors and determine our camping style.
Keen Lake for Poconos Camping
Keen Lake Campground and Cottage Resort (570/488-6161) is in Lackawanna County, about a half hour from Scranton. Privately run by the Keen family since the late 1800s, most campers settle into their sites around beautiful Keen Lake and never leave this charmed spot.
Yet, the Northeast Pennsylvania region is full of activities. Scranton has a rich mining legacy and related museums, railroad history and even a drive-in movie theater to lure you away. The small, nearby town of Honesdale is home to the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company, Wayne County Historical Museums, as well as The Stourbridge Project, an incubator and maker studio for budding entrepreneurs. Honesdale is also home to one of our childhood favorites, Highlights magazine’s editorial office.
When you’re ready to escape the grill, go for the farm to table dining. We had a fun night out at the Twisted Rail Tavern (nice selection of draught beers including Wallenpaupauck Creamy Ale) and a hearty breakfast on the deck of Mustard Seed in the village of Keen Lake itself.
Keen Lake’s Sleeping Options
At Keen Lake, we slept in one of eight, light-filled Glamping Tents. These are huge canvas tents with mesh windows, fixed onto a platform with a waterproof roof over it. Inside was a four-poster queen bed, night tables with lamps and a few chests. (Keen Lake rents air mattresses if you bring children.) We were told to bring our own linens, towels and all cooking utensils to reduce the chance of spreading coronavirus.
The zip-down windows and doors allowed in the sounds of rustling branches and coolness of tree-shaded breezes. We felt like we were sleeping in wilderness, yet had the creature comforts of a cooler for food storage, minifridge, microwave, coffeemaker and a Weber barbecue outside.
We loved having a ceiling fan but it’s worth noting for allergen-sufferers that smoke from our neighbors’ firepits drifted into our tent. The internet, free throughout the camp, did not work at all. Another drawback: glamping tents have a very funky outhouse nearby and, about 5 minutes’ walk away, a small clean bathhouse with a single men’s and women’s toilet stall and coin-operated shower. (Yes! 25 cents for 5 minutes of hot water!)
Layout of the Keen Lake Resort
Keen Lake Camping & Cottage Resort bustles compared to other campgrounds we sampled. Facilities including the main building with general store, office, laundromat, pool and parking are clustered on one side of the lakeshore road opposite a ball court, lakefront recreation area, sandy beach, playground and boat launch (non-motorized). It’s the “village” base for all the property has to offer and it’s busy with campers, many of whom greeted each other like repeat guests.
In terms of campsites, the Keen Lake resort is busy, too. Rental sleeping options have expanded since 1954 under the watch of seven Keen sisters to include a few furnished rental cottages, some parked RVs and lots of rental sites along the shore for tents and RVs. The hillsides above the lake, much quieter, are terraced to provide more space for RVs and tents in the woods.
Keen Lake’s glamping tents were beautifully sited on a verdant patch on the opposite side of the lake, a 5-minute drive away from the village and swimming area. We found them a good place to avoid the crowds.
Keen Lake Camping Facilities & Recreation
Deep green Keen Lake is very picturesque, with some stonework railroad bridges and lots of boat rental options. The water, very fresh and clean, is ideal for swimming and shallow areas are roped off from paddleboarders and kayaks. On the upper level, the Children’s Garden is where young guests learn where their food is grown and work with local gardeners.
Nearby, Prompton State Park has 26 miles of trails for hiking and a disc golf course for those who want to try the sport. Down the road, a stable has horses for hire and kids’ lessons. Sawmill Cycles in Honesdale rents bikes if you want to tackle the busy, winding roads.
A Special Note about the Susquehanna River
Our favorite outing from Keen Lake was a canoe trip on the Susquehanna River. Kayak the River (570/388-6107) is a long-established outfitter who can set you up with kayaks, canoes and even camping gear for local river trips, on your own or with a guide. They also have a branch that operates in Lackawanna County’s Frances Slocum State Park, another local campground.
Art Coolbaugh and his team run the popular Ardee’s Foodrinkery. We joined their Pizza and Paddle Wednesday tour, a guided two-hour, very gentle kayak trip from a boat launch to the town of Falls to try Ardee’s famous flatbread pizzas.
It’s fun to have a knowledgeable local guide tell stories as you paddle. We admired the lack of visible development along the Susquehanna, Pennsylvania’s 2016 river of the year for its cleanup efforts. Art told us he set up multiday kayak and camping trips, too, because the river runs from Cooperstown, New York all the way to Havre de Grace, Maryland.
Hmm… tempting. But we’re not sure we’re ready to give up our glamping tent yet.
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