Minnesota North Shore – Split Rock State Park

Split Rock is the second state park along the North Shore.  This park is best known for its historic lighthouse – which is touted as one of the most photographed in the United States.  The lighthouse and other buildings have been restored to pre-1924 appearance on this 25 acre site and is managed by the Minnesota Historical Society.  The park is 2200 acres in all and features a unique cart-in campground and many scenic trails.  The east and west branches of the Split Rock River join in the park.  There are ten waterfalls on the river, all of which are a moderate hike away via the Superior Hiking Trail and most are not actually inside the park boundaries.

Hoist & Derrick www.lighthousefriends.com
Hoist & Derrick-lighthousefriends.com

Construction of the lighthouse and fog horn buildings was complete in 1909.  The Minnesota Historical Society has used this site as a museum since 1971.  This lighthouse was erected in 1910 from materials offloaded from ships on Lake Superior with a steam-powered hoist and derrick.  The hoist and derrick was problematic in high winds and waves; not to mention extremely dangerous to operate. Supplies for operation were also delivered using this method until a tramway was constructed in 1915.

Tramway- lighthousefriends.com

The tramway stretched from the water’s edge at the dock location to the South of the lighthouse to the top of the hill where the tram house is located.  An extension of the rail spur allowed the flat car to be pushed over to the oil house and storage barns.  Remnants of the tramway are still present to this day.  There are stairs that parallel the tramway path all the way to the water.  Delivery via Lake Superior came to an end 1934 when a flatbed pickup was used to haul supplies along the Lake Superior International Highway.|

Fog horn building
Fog horn building

We were introduced to the sound of the Split Rock Lighthouse Fog Horn; even at a faction of operation day decibels, it was plenty loud.  I can only image how that building shook every 18 seconds when visibility was poor.  The glass in the widows were “chicken-wired” to prevent them from shattering under the intense vibration.  I am not sure how anyone could have gotten any sleep anywhere near that building.


Split Rock Lighthouse State Park has a rich and varied history. From 1899 to 1906, the Merrill and Ring Lumber Company logged most of the original Norway and white pine from the area. During peak years, the company operated a short railroad up the river. Pilings from old wharf and dam can still be seen jutting out of the water at the mouth of the Split Rock River.  In 1905, a punishing November gale (the kind Lake Superior is famous for), claimed the Edenborn and the Madiera (a barge the Edenborn was towing) as well as five other ships, within a dozen miles of the Split Rock River. The tragic sinking of these ships fueled the demand for a lighthouse. The fog signal building and lighthouse were completed in 1909 and commissioned one year later. For 59 years, the keepers at Split Rock warned ships away from the rock and treacherous North Shore with its 370,000-candlepower beacon. In 1971, the federal government deeded the lighthouse station to the State of Minnesota to be operated as a historic site. In 1976, the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) assumed operation of the site.

Here are my shot from my visit to Split Rock Lighthouse.

The State Parks:  (1) Gooseberry Falls |(2) Split Rock Lighthouse | (3) Tettegouche | (5) Temperance River | (6) Cascade River | (7) Judge C.R. Magney | (8) Grand Portage

Inside the lighthouse…


12 Replies to “Minnesota North Shore – Split Rock State Park”

  1. I never have been able to climb that spiral staircase all the way. Just too afraid of heights. These are some excellent mood setting images with the fog and the water, and, well, everything magical that the North Shore offers.

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