The North Shore Drive, 2012–Tettegouche State Park

Wednesday morning once again we packed up the camper and headed down the Lake to our next stop, Tettegouche State Park. We got 8 miles away and had to return for a set of camper keys we had dropped. Oh well, all’s well that ends well.

In 1898 a lumber company bought the area and started cutting the virgin pine forests. After removing all of the pines, the company sold the logging camp and surrounding acreage to the “Tettegouche Club,” a group of business men from Duluth. They used the area as a fishing camp and retreat. In 1921 one of its members bought out the others. He acted as a protector of the area until 1971 when he sold the land to a Mr. deLaittres, who continued the prior stewardship of the land.  Eventually the land passed to Minnesota and the park was established. Now it covers a mile of shoreline, but goes inland quite a ways, for a total of 9,000 acres.

The campground is found well in from the shore, about a mile.  The forest is thick with spruce, aspen, birch and oaks.  The sites are well-spaced and we feel isolated in these north woods.


The Baptism River runs through the park and there are two prominent geological features on the shore, Shovel Point and Palisade Head.  By the time we were set up, the afternoon was waning and we had just enough time to drive up to the top of Palisade Head.  An extension of the nearby age-old Sawtooth Mountains, both Palisade Head and Shovel Point are massive outcrops of volcanic rock. This cliff top is one of many remaining after millennia of erosion along the Superior Shore, The views were tremendous, and the afternoon light was illuminating Shovel Point dramatically in the distance.  Melinda got her shot.

Image There are also falls on the Baptism River as it rushes down to the Lake. Melinda decided there was enough light remaining to head out to one of them before darkness fell completely.  Heading down a trail leading out from the campground, she was able to satisfy her waterfall quest for this day.  The Upper Falls are the largest here at Tettegouche with an 80-ft. drop.


The gales of November have come early, it would seem.  Thursday turned out to be a cold, overcast dreary day, so we headed to Ely, Minnesota. Ely is the gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area. It’s a real town in the middle of nowhere. On just about every corner there is an outfitter ready to supply you with a canoe and everything else to take you off into the wilderness. And if it isn’t an outfitter, then it’s a store that sells the garments and accessories you will need to properly tackle that wilderness.



Ely hosts a North American Bear Center as well as an International Wolf Center. We didn’t have time to take in both, so we picked the wolf center. It is a relatively new facility with displays, theaters and live wolves in a natural enclosure. It was cold and windy and the wolves were quite active. On Isle Royale, just off the coastline up at Grand Portage there is a wolf pack and their principle prey, moose, in residence.  They have been extensively studied within this unique area. The center provides information on what has been learned through these studies.


There aren’t many roads to Ely and the main one was partially closed. The trip up there involved a 20-mile detour over a gravel road. That wasn’t much fun, but the scenery sure got our attention.


On the way home we had to be on our guard.  There were several places like this one that showed the repercussions of what the blustery wind can do to spindly trees that line the road.  There were several such downfalls encountered on our return trip.


The inclimate weather continued on Friday. We couldn’t really complain and grouse about it, because up until yesterday we had been experiencing absolutely fantastic conditions—sunny and pleasantly cool.  So we spent the morning hiking up and down along the rocky shore in Tettegouche.

Wearing his newly purchased Northwoods outerwear.


The park has done a great job of building wooden stairways to help navigate the very irregular coastline.  Without them, the well-trodden pathways would quickly erode the terrain.  Some of the elevations are pretty steep and there are a lot of steps involved . . . we’ve had a good aerobic workout in this park.

It was cold, but we had purchased some warmer clothing in Ely (things we neglected to pack).  The brisk wind had quite the edge to it, but also stirred up the Lake waters.  It was as rough as we’ve yet seen it.  the usually deep blue waters of Superior were now a steely gray.


We managed to come across a little bay along the shore that was fairly protected from the elements.  Its beach was filled with the smooth rocks that Superior is known for.


Chris took time to do a little rock hunting, thinking they’d make a good souvenir from this trip.

Surprisingly, our campground is almost full. Once the sun begins to drop, it’s too cold to sit outside with a fire. We aren’t sure what everyone is doing, especially those in tents. The nights have been dipping into the high 20s.  This morning our truck’s windshield was encased with ice. Brrrr.

Saturday morning began with some clear skies for a change.  Melinda jumped out of bed and was off.  She hoped to catch the morning light hitting the façade of Palisade Head.  After searching high and low for just the right spot, she managed to locate a perspective that gave an accurate picture of what this stretch of Superior’s shoreline looks like.



Then, just as the heavy clouds were quickly moving in, I was able to drive her back to the top of Palisade Head where she could get the iconic shot that Palisade Head is known for.  It is one of the trademark pictures of the North Shore Drive.

After a late breakfast with the day once again turning blustery and cold, we decided to drive a stretch of the North Shore highway and take in some of the small craft and gift shops that are found intermittently along the road.  It was a fun way to spend a few weekend hours.


We ended our last full day here taking one last trail . . . to another waterfall of the Baptism River.  This one was more like a cascade, but Melinda still found it worth the effort.  Some waterfalls are more spectacular, while others just offer a very pleasing highlight to the flow of a river.


Tomorrow we travel on, getting ever closer to Duluth again.  We will be camping in our last state park of this trip, a park that is well-known for its abundance of waterfalls within a small area.  Have you had enough of them yet?


From the rugged shoreline of

Lake Superior,

Chris and Melinda


About AirstreamTravelers

A 2016 Pendleton Airstream suits our lifestyle perfectly. It's a commemorative edition celebrating the 100th anniversary of our national parks. In our efforts to see as many of those parks as we can, the two of us are now spending several months each year on the road. We hope our posts and accompanying photos give a vivid description of where we travel, illustrating to our followers what's out there, just over the next horizon.
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