Split Rock Lighthouse: Take a Tour

Discover Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse is one of America’s most picturesque lighthouses and arguably the North Shore’s most famous icon. Sitting atop a 130-foot sheer cliff at the water’s edge, she invites you to experience the stories of her heritage. The Minnesota Historical Society operates this site which includes the Lighthouse, Light Keeper’s House, Oil House, and Fog Signal Building. There is also a museum, visitor center, and museum shop. 

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Take a tour of Split Rock Lighthouse

Tours are available during peak season (summer and fall). Take a guided tour with a 1920’s era costumed interpreter, or explore on your own. Introductory 20-minute tours of the light station leave regularly. But if you want to see everything, take a guided tour to glimpse inside the restored keeper’s house, oil house, and fog signal building.

If you come during the off-season (November – February), the lighthouse grounds are open, as well as the Visitor Center, Museum, and Museum Store. There are no tours but you can walk around and check it out. Read about exploring Split Rock Lighthouse during the winter: Split Rock Lighthouse, a Short and Sweet Winter Treat. 

My favorite thing is walking around the site of the lighthouse itself. The view from the Observation Deck atop the 130-foot cliff is amazing! And there is a trail that traverses the cliff edge with informational panels telling interesting stories along the way.

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View of Ellingsen Island

View of Ellingsen Island from the observation deck

Split Rock Lighthouse Museum

The Visitor Center, Museum, and Museum Store are open year-round. The Museum has some interesting, interactive displays.  Did you know they hoisted all of the building materials from the water, up the cliff, to build the Lighthouse (no roads yet!)? See a replica of the hoist engine! And you’ll love the Lego model of the lighthouse, built with 20,000 Legos for the centennial in 2010. 

The Museum Store has lots of great North Shore apparel, local art and merchandise, books, local guides, and souvenirs.

Replica Hoist

Replica of hoist that brought building materials up the side of the cliff.

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The Birth of Splitrock Lighthouse

The early 20th Century’s iron ore boom sparked the need for a lighthouse. The demand for iron ore shipments from Minnesota’s mines brought hundreds of freighters across Lake Superior. Tragically, 29 ships perished in the famous storm of 1905. As a result of lobbying efforts, Congress appropriated $75,000, and Split Rock Lighthouse was built. It was commissioned in 1910.

The Lake Superior International Highway opened in 1924. Consequently, the North Shore was open to more travelers, and the lure of the lighthouse made Split Rock one of the most popular destinations in Minnesota.

The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969 as a result of new navigational technology.

Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial Beacon Lighting

Once a year on November 10th, Split Rock’s beacon is lit in remembrance of the lost ship SS Edmund Fitzgerald. At the toll of the bell, the names of all 29 lost crew members are announced, and the Naval Hymn is played. The beacon is lit at the end of the ceremony, and you can tour the lantern room. This is the only time that you can see the interior of the light tower while the beacon is lit. The event attracts nearly 900 people each year. Edmond Fitzgerald Beacon Lighting 

 

Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial Beacon Lighting at Split Rock Lighthouse.

Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial Beacon Lighting at Split Rock Lighthouse.

Location, Hours, Fees

  • Link to Split Rock Lighthouse Hours & Admission
  • Mile Marker 46, approx 7 miles east of Castle Danger
  • The grounds, Visitor Center, and Museum Gift Shop are open year-round.
  • March 1 – October 31: There is a fee of $5 – $10 (depending on time of season and discount eligibility) to enter the grounds. Look around the Visitor Center and Museum Shop at no charge.
  • November 1 – April 30: Tours are NOT available and historic buildings are closed. You may walk around the grounds and explore the Visitor Center and Museum Shop for free. A State Park vehicle pass of $7 per day is required to park.
  • Accessibility Information

 

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