The meaning of the word “temperance” suggests moderation (although the Temperance Movement in the U.S. advocated absolute abstention of alcohol).  But how does the word apply to a river — especially one along the rugged North Shore of Lake Superior called the Temperance River?


Not especially temperate looking with churning waterfalls and rapids flowing downstream


Like the other rivers along the North Shore of Lake Superior, the Temperance River is a powerful sculpting force, cutting deep, narrow gorges through the 1 billion year old rocks that form the Superior Basin here. Birch and Balsam Fir line the shore of the gorges, embedding their roots in chinks in the rock.


The last waterfalls before the outflow to the lake are still impressive sights, the opposite of what the name of the river implies.

So, how is it that this river deserves the Temperance label?


There is a very small sandbar at the mouth of the river where it empties into Lake Superior, much smaller than you might expect, largely due to the high volume of flow in the river.

It is thought that the river got its name from early explorers’ observation that this river ran so fast, there was no sandbar at its mouth.  With tongue-in-cheek, and mindful of the Temperance Movement,  what do you call a river with no bar?

Yep, the Temperance River.  Well, it’s a good story anyway.


The end of the trail in this incredibly lovely park is the lake beach with a view of the river mouth.

2 thoughts on “Temperance

  1. The river was given the name “Temperance” because, unlike other North Shore rivers, it has NOT had much of a sandbar at its mouth, owning to the violence of its flow. For contrast, look at the Baptism River, which has a wide sandbar across almost the entire width of its mouth. So, in a nod to the Temperance movement of that time in the U.S., the river was rather ironically named. Thanks so much for your splendid photos!

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