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10.22.2009 - 19 comments 

Well, we have just returned from a fall foliage trip up in Minnesota and we could not have been there at a prettier time of year. The drive from Duluth, Minnesota along North Shore Drive around that part of Lake Superior was to say the least, was as absolutely spectacularly colorful and adventurous trip.

As we made our way from Duluth, we came across lake shore towns like Knife River, Larsmont, and Two rivers. While at Two Rivers we found another light house was appropriately called the Two Harbors Lighthouse. Even though it was a nice light house, it in no way was as exciting or picturesque as was the Split Rock Lighthouse, so we only took a few pictures of the Two Harbors Lighthouse and preceded back on our drive through the Silver Creek Tunnel and then the Layfette Tunnel only stopping to check out Gooseberry Falls on our way.

When we got to the light house at Split Rock, we were welcomed by a very state of the art visitor center and accompanying light house tour. This included a very nice and energetic young college grad aged guy who was very excited to tell us about the history of the light house and how it was built and why.

This tour of his included the fact that the year before the lighthouse was approved and funds were allocated for it, that there were 28 shipwrecks in that area. He also pointed out that because the water was so deep around the cliffs that often times ships’ captains in stormy or foggy weather often thought that they were in deep water and as such, were further from the coastline that they were in reality and would crash their ships loaded usually with iron ore and sank along that area of the North Shore of Lake Superior. He also made one point that I found amazing was the fact that in the 99 years since the light house was built, there has not been even one shipwreck after the light house began its operation in 1909.

Just when we thought the tour could not get better, he passed us off to a lady dressed in period clothing who was in one of the three identical light house tenders quarters. The lady explained how they needed three light house keepers, because the light house had to tend to the light house 24 by 7 for 365 days a year. After she explained how the families of the light house tenders lived on a day to day basis, she handed us a plate of homemade cookies that just came out of the hundred year old over and they were delicious.

Next on our tour was a guy also in period clothing who took us on a tour of the actual lighthouse itself and explained about the cost of the light itself which was made in France at a cost of $70,000 which in today’s dollars would be about one million dollars. His demonstration and actual winding up of the weight that drove the light mechanisms was nothing less than amazing. I was fascinated with its mechanical genius that was a hundred years old. He explained that Shipwrecks from a mighty 1905 November gale prompted this rugged landmark's construction.

Completed by the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1910, Split Rock Light Station was soon one of Minnesota's best known landmarks. Restored to its 1920s appearance, the lighthouse offers a glimpse of lighthouse 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.

A single storm on Nov. 28, 1905, damaged 29 ships, fully one third of which were the uninsured property of the steel company fleet. Two of these carriers foundered on this rocky coastline, which some called "the most dangerous piece of water in the world." A delegation led by the steamship company president descended upon Washington, D.C., and in early 1907, Congress appropriated $75,000 for a lighthouse and fog signal in the vicinity of Split Rock.

The guide told us that the light house light alone would now cost over a million dollars to replace, it even has the original lens in the light.

The station closed in 1969 when modern navigational equipment made it obsolete. The State of Minnesota obtained the scenic landmark in 1971. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources operates Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, a 2,200-acre state park that offers hiking, picnicking and tent camping to visitors.

In 1976, administrative responsibility for the 25-acre Split Rock Lighthouse Historic Site was given to the Minnesota Historical Society. The Society continues the dual goals of preservation and interpretation of Split Rock Light Station for the generations to come.

The U. S. Lighthouse Service completed the 7.6-acre facility in 1910 and operated it 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 probably the most visited lighthouse in the United States."

Needless to say it was a wonderful trip and a wonderful tour of the lighthouse. As you can tell from a couple of the shots, we even got a little snow to accent the beautifully colored trees on our return trip. I also threw in a couple of the other lighthouse we passed at Two Harbors and one of the tunnels. As with all the shots I post, you can double click on them for a bigger view!

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won't need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don't fire cannons to call attention to their shining - they just shine.” ~ Dwight L. Moody