Circling Lake Superior, Part 3: Bluffs and falls show lake’s wild side

An inukshuk stands at the side of the Trans-Canadian Highway near Marathon.
MinnPost photo by Catherine Conlan
An inukshuk stands at the side of the Trans-Canadian Highway near Marathon.

MARATHON, Ontario — This is, at once, my lake and not my lake. I see this around every curve and over every rise in the road as we drive from Thunder Bay to our campsite just past Rossport, Ontario. 

On Highway 61 up the North Shore of Minnesota, the road runs over gentle hills and there are a couple of bends that, while I wouldn’t want to take them in a logging truck in February, don’t cause any hassle. On this road, Highway 17, we climb small mountains and plunge into river valleys. In Minnesota, black basalt cliffs stretch on either side of the road.

Here, the road is flanked by enormously tall palisades layered with red and pink and white, like a birthday cake. At our campground on the lake, the cobblestone beach and birch are the same, but the mist-covered islands, scattered about like pieces of what I imagine Ireland to look like, are new. The loons are the same. The train running through the campsite — well …

We have guides and sentries on our drive. As a part of the Trans-Canadian Highway, the bluffs (sadly) serve as a billboard for people who are passing through, and many travelers have left their names painted on the bedrock. More happily, others have left inuksuit, and at almost every outcropping, my sharp-eyed children can find two or three as we drive by. We saw Aguasabon Falls and Gorge near Terrace Bay, a waterfall more than 100 feet high that carves through ancient rock to reach the lake. Its height and ferocity make Gooseberry Falls look a little tame, and we are pleased to see this wild face of the shoreline. After reaching our campsite at 11 p.m. in the rain last night, this day has been full of glory.

It is like speaking a foreign language, looking at Lake Superior from up here. It’s a subtly foreign language — like the “u” in labour and colour, every sign duplicated in instantly recognizable French — and it gives me what I had hoped for in this trip: a new look at the lake.

Aguasabon Falls near Terrace Bay
MinnPost photo by Catherine Conlan
Aguasabon Falls near Terrace Bay

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by myles spicer on 06/25/2009 - 11:39 am.

    What a beautiful story. And what a shame that we now live in a world where we need a Passport to travel to our friend to the north. The Lake is truly timeless…but sadly, the “times” they are
    “a-changin”

  2. Submitted by Cara Ashenbrener on 06/25/2009 - 08:16 pm.

    I love the drive along Highway 17 in Canada, and especially the area around Terrace Bay & Rossport. You said it perfectly by saying it’s the same and yet so different. As soon as I leave the big lake, I long for it.

  3. Submitted by Rick Prescott on 06/30/2009 - 12:20 pm.

    “what I imagine Ireland to look like”

    When I first drove through this area I had just returned from the highlands of Scotland. The views are remarkably similar in beauty and mystery.

    I had no idea that such exquisitely beautiful scenery was so close to my Minneapolis home.

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