Terrace Bay—Lake Superior has two North Shores. One, best known to Minnesotans, is their own 150-mile stretch of shoreline between Duluth and the Canadian border. The other, call it the geographical North Shore, is best known to Ontarians and extends across the top of the lake. While both North Shores are wonderfully scenic, the Ontario portion has sweeping grandeur that must be seen to be appreciated. Hills high enough to be called mountains are buttressed by sheer palisades; all overlooking an azure Lake Superior bejeweled with islands, many capped with mountains of their own.
This is a wild and lonely landscape. The human population lives in a handful of small communities: native reserves and former mill towns. The only surviving pulp mill is in Terrace Bay, but you wouldn’t know that if you stopped for a meal or a casual stroll through the business district, because the mill property is located in the forests outside of town.
What you would see instead is a tall replica of a lighthouse that is the town’s icon and observation post. Climb the metal stairs to the observation deck and you can look across Lake Superior to the Slate Islands. Formed by an ancient meteor strike, the archipelago is a provincial park and home to population of woodland caribou, the original inhabitants of the North Shore’s forests. On the far side of Patterson Island, facing Superior’s open expanse, the actual lighthouse is perched atop a rocky bluff.
Turn the other direction and you can look down upon the town’s business district, forming an interconnected crescent of stores and shops. This is a working town, not a tourist village, so most of the stores provide small town necessities. Then again, those necessities include a newly opened art gallery and soon-to-open microbrewery, appropriately named Lighthouse. Local restaurants feature tasty menus, too.
The wild side of Terrace Bay is unique. On the west side of town, you’ll find Aguasabon Falls and Gorge, with a breathtaking view of the river pitching over a precipice and then roaring through a rocky gorge. When the water is high, the sight is simply amazing. The site is also the eastern trailhead for the Casque Isles Hiking Trail, which follows the rugged Superior shoreline from Terrace Bay to Rossport, a total distance of 53 km. There are several access points along the way.
What truly sets Terrace Bay apart from other North Shore communities are its sand beaches. Beaches? Yes, beaches. Interspersed among rocky points and outcrops are sand beaches that may run a mile or more. Even on a hot summer day, you’ll find ample elbow room. In fact, you may hardly see anyone at all. The most accessible beach is at the mouth of the Aguasabon River, just past the tidy, nine-hole municipal golf course. The river also contains a sheltered boat access to Lake Superior complete with docks and a special, accessible kayak launch designed so that people with physical limitations can get into a kayak.
The boat access is also the jumping off point for adventure. The Slate Islands are less than 10 miles away. You can head out in your own watercraft or explore the islands with a local charter service. Either way, you can expect to find stunning scenery, possibly see a caribou and, if it strikes your fancy, find great fishing for native lake trout.
All in all, in Terrace Bay you can find the best of what the North Shore has to offer.
By Shawn Perich