Walk in the century-old footsteps of the lighthouse keepers and come face-to-face with the 1000-watt bulb.
Located on a 130-foot cliff on the rocky coast of Lake Superior, Split Rock Lighthouse is an intact 1910 light station that guided ships across the often stormy waters of western Lake Superior. Today, Split Rock Lighthouse is a Minnesota state historic site and a National Historic Landmark.
Lighting the way
In the early 20th century, Lake Superior was, as American novelist James Oliver Curwood called it, "the most dangerous piece of water in the world." As Minnesota’s iron ore industry was booming, the need for safe passage of freighter ships drove the U.S. Congress to appropriate $75,000 for a lighthouse and fog signal at Split Rock — that’s nearly $2 million today.
Not much has changed since the lighthouse was built in 1910. At the top of a 32-step spiral staircase, the lantern room houses the original French-built Fresnel lens that still turns with its original clockwork mechanism. While the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969, the lantern is still in operational condition and is lit each November 10 during the Edmund Fitzgerald Beacon Lighting Ceremony.
Repels ships, attracts people
In the late 1930s, the lighthouse drew about 100,000 people each year — about five times as many visitors as any other station in the service. When the U.S. Coast Guard absorbed the Lighthouse Service in 1939, it publicized Split Rock Lighthouse as "probably the most visited lighthouse in the United States."
Today, Split Rock Lighthouse draws visitors from around the world, all year long. Surrounded by Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, the lighthouse is a spectacular destination where visitors can enjoy the changing of Minnesota’s seasons, and it is one of the best locations on the North Shore to get up close and personal with the largest Great Lake.
- Lake Superior is 602 feet above sea level.
- The Split Rock Lighthouse tower is 54 feet high.
- Split Rock Lighthouse sits atop a 130 feet high cliff.
- The official range of the light is 22 miles.