Split Rock Lighthouse shines on

Location

MN
United States
47° 11' 24.6444" N, 91° 24' 27.4428" W



The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead

When the skies of November turn gloomy.

     Gorden Lightfoot

     Gales of November

 

Fans of the Split Rock Lighthouse get a rare treat on the tenth of November.

The one hundred year old light house is lit each year to in memory of the 1975 sinking of the 729-foot freighter, the Edmund Fitzgerald and the loss of 29 crew members.

The Fitzgerald, left Superior, Wis., headed for Detroit with 26,000 tons of taconite. The ship encountered a heavy November gale for which Lake Superior is notorious.

Capt. Ernest McSorley headed northeast across Lake Superior, hoping to reach the shelter of Whitefish Bay on the Canadian. The wind and waves were too much for the freighter.

Every year on November 10, the navigational beacon is lit in memory of the 29 men that died aboard the Fitzgerald and all the other vessels lost on the Great Lakes.

This event offers the only time during the year that visitors can see the interior of the light tower when the beacon is lit. It is a great time both to learn about the operation of the light and to take advantage of a rare photo opportunity.

Shipwrecks prompted the lighthouse’s construction. In early 1907, the U.S. Congress appropriated $75,000 for “a lighthouse and fog signal in the vicinity of Split Rock, Minnesota.” The lighthouse station was built by the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1910.

The Split Rock Light Station soon became one of Minnesota’s best-known landmarks. Restoration began in the 1970s, resulting in a lighthouse that now offers a historic picture of life in this remote and spectacular setting.


In the early years of the 20th-century, iron ore shipments on Lake Superior doubled and redoubled. United States Steel’s bulk ore carriers became ‘the greatest exclusive freight-carrying fleet sailing under one ownership in the world,” so the demand for a new lighthouse on the lake’s inhospitable North Shore was hardly surprising. This rocky coastline has been called “the most 

dangerous piece of water in the world.” 

The U. S. Lighthouse Service operated the site until 1939, when the U.S. Coast Guard took command. By that time, Split Rock’s picturesque setting near the North Shore highway, built in 1924, had made it “the most visited lighthouse in the United States.”


The station closed in 1969, when modern navigational equipment made it obsolete. The State of Minnesota obtained the scenic and historic landmark in 1971. The Minnesota Historical Society now administers the 25-acre historic site and continues to restore it to its pre-1924 appearance – a time when the isolated light station was accessible only by water.



Split Rock Lighthouse offers many options for visitors who only want to stop for an hour to people who spend a day visiting the historic site. Most visitors spend from two to three hours touring the lighthouse, walking the trails, and in the Visitor Center.


The Visitor Center is your first stop for tickets, interactive exhibits, a short introductory film, and the museum store.

The exhibit area features artifacts and presents information on the history of the light station, the history of the North Shore and facts about Lake Superior shipping. Children and adults enjoy a fun, hands-on way to learn about how lighthouses work.

The Museum Store in the Visitor Center features nautical, north woods and Split Rock merchandise. The store is open the same hours as the Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center has rest rooms, exhibits, Museum Store and spectacular views of the big lake. The Visitor Center is air-conditioned.

A selection of salads, sandwiches and other light fare are available for sale in the Museum Store.

Guided tours (45-minutes) of the light station leave from the visitor center at the top of the hour. Visitors can also tour the site and climb the lighthouse on their own.

Costumed guides in the lighthouse and the keeper’s home show what life was like for the light keepers and their families in the early 1920’s.

Four of the historic buildings are open to visitors: lighthouse, fog signal building, oil house and keeper's restored home.

A quarter-mile hiking trail to the lakeshore at the bottom of the cliff offers opportunities to get up close and personal with Lake Superior – and to get the famous photo of the lighthouse atop the 130-foot cliff.

The historic site is surrounded by Split Rock Lighthouse State Park with a lakeshore picnic area, trail center, tent camping at well-spaced campsites, and 14 miles of hiking, biking, snowshoe and cross-country ski trails along the lakeshore and through the northern forest.

Connect up with other nearby trails, including the paved Gitchi-Gami State Trail, the Superior Hiking Trail, kayaking in Lake Superior, and the North Shore Scenic Drive.

Other popular activities include wildlife viewing, shipwatching, and skipping rocks in the lake.

For more information visit: Historic Site or the State Park 

Photo by Joi Electa

 

 

 


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