Princess Tanadoona is the guardian of her namesake camp. When a storm threatens, she stands on the sandy shore of Lake Minnewashta and shoos away the roiling clouds.

Or so the legend goes. Although Princess Tanadoona isn't real, it's no myth that the lake is protected.

You have to follow the ambiguous signs on the winding dirt roads in Lake Minnewashta Regional Park to get to the lake, west of Excelsior. But it's worth the journey. The small, quiet beach has permanently installed umbrellas that offer shade, and a boardwalk that provides disability access to the water -- and a hot-sand-proof pathway for sensitive feet.

There's another public beach just across the lake in Chanhassen's Round House Park. Within the two parks, secluded areas allow for beach bumming, picnicking and boat launching. And although nearly 200 homes dot the shore, the large tracts of land owned by Camp Tanadoona and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum give the lake a whole lot of privacy.

"It gives you a northern Minnesota feel," said Marty Walsh, parks director of Lake Minnewashta Regional Park.

Tight-lipped fishermen relish the solitude of this "hidden jewel," said Steve Gunther, president of the lake's preservation society. "I couldn't tell you the good fishing spots because my friends would kill me," he said. But the kids at Camp Tanadoona aren't so quiet -- or so conservative with their fishing stories.

They sit on the camp's fishing piers, dip their poles in the water, and soon enough "they always catch the sunnies," said waterfront director David "Bo Bo" Clark, 23. "Everybody catches something. It's impossible not to."

Jessica Bakeman • 612-673-4401