Split Rock Lighthouse. State/Provincial Park in Minnesota, United States

Split Rock Lighthouse

State/Provincial Park in Minnesota, United States

Split Rock Lighthouse Photo © Captain Tenneal

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Split Rock Lighthouse

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Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most well-known destinations in Northern Minnesota, an icon of Minnesota history, and scenic beauty along Highway 61.

History

The beginning of the 20th century saw a steep increase in the number of ships using Lake Superior to transport the area’s rich deposits of iron ore to the growing number of steel mills which helped to fuel the industrial revolution.

In 1905, Lake Superior's waters surrounding what would be the future site of Split Rock Lighthouse were referred to by novelist, James Oliver Curwood, as “the most dangerous piece of water in the world.” A particularly harsh, November storm on November 28th, 1905, damaged 28 ships and prompted the need to build the Split Rock Lighthouse.

The lighthouse opened in 1910, faithfully guiding ships to safety along the rocky shores and formidable cliffs of the lake. It operated until 1969 until it gave way to the advancement of technology and was no longer required as a navigational aid.

How to Get Here

When the Split Rock Lighthouse was built, it was in a incredibly remote location, accessible only by water. Today, you have the advantage of being able to drive north from Duluth (Wikipedia Article), Minnesota, up scenic Minnesota Highway 61, to get to this historic treasure. The lighthouse is located approximately one hour north of Duluth, MN, and is accessible by car.

Highway 61 is truly one of the most scenic drives in Minnesota. You could easily combine your visit to Split Rock Lighthouse with a stop at nearby Gooseberry Falls State Park or continue up the shore to visit the charming and iconic Minnesotan town of Grand Marais, Minnesota (Wikipedia Article).

Visiting the Lighthouse

Tours

When visiting, you can explore the lighthouse and informative, interpretive center on your own, or participate in one of the tours that are regularly scheduled throughout the day. The Split Rock Lighthouse is located within Split Rock State Park. In addition to touring the lighthouse, the park offers access to hiking and biking trails as well as beautiful, lakeside campsites with views of the dramatic, rocky shoreline and easily accessible picnic areas.

If you choose a tour, costumed guides will help to provide you with a better understanding of the importance of the lighthouse for the Great Lakes' shipping industry and difficult lives led at the remote lighthouse by the lighthouse keepers and their families. Cold, unforgiving Northern Minnesota winters, harsh storms, and the difficulty of reaching the lighthouse to bring supplies or in cases of emergency made being a lighthouse keeper a job only for hardy souls that were truly dedicated to their work.

Picnicking

After your visit to the lighthouse, you can take a picnic lunch to the picnic tables located next to Pebble Beach and enjoy the scenery (you can even participate in the Minnesota tradition of skipping small, flat rocks on top of the water!)

Hiking

The park has a short hiking trail to Pebble Beach and the picnic areas offering views of the shoreline that is accessible for those that are mobility-impaired. If you are in need of a little exercise and a stunning vista to go with your lunch, the 5-mile Split Rock loop trail is a popular day hike which will wind you up to the Split Rock Split Rock Overlook, affording those who are willing to exert a little more effort for a truly a truly memorable and picture worthy view down the North Shore.

The park has a variety of hiking trails running along the shore of the lake that pass by many places of historical significance.

Biking

Split Rock State Park is also connected to the Gitchi-Gami bike Trail, a paved trail that connects many noteworthy and scenic stops along the shore of the lake.
  • Winter Recreation

  • A visit to the Split Rock Lighthouse in winter will afford much different views of this iconic Minnesota landmark than in the summer. The park offers groomed crosS- country ski trails and snowshoeing trails for winter recreation enthusiasts.

    Insider Tips - Special Events at the Lighthouse

    Coast Guard regulations today prohibit lighting the beacon of the lighthouse on a regular basis, but each year on November 10th, a special ceremony takes place to commemorate the tragic sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald and all ships that have sunk on the unforgiving waters of Lake Superior. During this ceremony, the beacon of the lighthouse is lit, and the 1920’s lighthouse can be seen in all of its brightness and glory.

    Lake Superior is famously known for its “gales”; strong, straight line winds that whip up huge waves with the power to sink even the huge ore freighters that sail its surface. On November 10th 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald was caught in one of those gales, and despite the heroic efforts of one of its captain, sunk with all 29 crew members.

    Songs have been written about the sinking of this ship, and it has become a part of the collective historical memory for many people in the state, an indelible reminder of the incredible power that lies just beneath the surface of the usually picturesque and beautiful lake.

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    Author: thereandbackmn. Last updated: Dec 16, 2014

    Pictures of Split Rock Lighthouse

    Split Rock Lighthouse - Split Rock Lighthouse
    Split Rock Lighthouse - Photo by Keith Ewing

    Split Rock Lighthouse - Split Rock Lighthouse
    Split Rock Lighthouse - Photo by Paul Huber

    Split Rock Lighthouse State Park - Split Rock Lighthouse
    Split Rock Lighthouse State Park - Photo by Jasperdo

    Split Rock Lighthouse - Split Rock Lighthouse
    Split Rock Lighthouse - Photo by Keith Ewing

    Split Rock Lighthouse - Split Rock Lighthouse
    Split Rock Lighthouse - Photo by Jim Liestman

    Split Rock Lighthouse State Park - Split Rock Lighthouse
    Split Rock Lighthouse State Park - Photo by Jasperdo

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