Many times when people hear or think of the North Shore of Lake Superior their minds quickly recall the eerie lyrics of the song of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Many ships have fallen victim to vicious "Nor-easters’" on the worlds largest fresh water lake.
One hundred years ago a place along Minnesota’s north shore was cleared and a lighthouse was erected to help Lake Superior captains navigate this inland sea. It was called Split Rock Lighthouse…and it still stands today.
Shipwrecks from a mighty 1905 November gale prompted this rugged landmark’s construction.
(Early construction photo of Split Rock Lighthouse – photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)
In early 1907, the U.S. Congress appropriated $75,000 for "a lighthouse and fog signal in the vicinity of Split Rock, Minnesota." Completed by the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1910, 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 U.S. Highway 61, 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 restored to its pre-1924 appearance, a time when the isolated light station was accessible only by water
(photo of Split Rock Lighthouse – photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)
Thousands of people each year enjoy the fantastic view of Lake Superiour from Minnesota’s Split Rock Lighthouse.