Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior

Discover Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior, Minnesota

Split Rock Lighthouse is one of Lake Superior’s most picturesque lighthouses and one of the most popular historic sites in Minnesota. Sitting atop a 130-foot sheer cliff at the edge of the water, 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. 

Split Rock Lighthouse, Lake Superior

Split Rock Lighthouse standing tall over Lake Superior

Experience Split Rock Lighthouse

During the main season (May-October), explore the historic site on your own with a self-guided experience. Friendly guides are stationed throughout the site to answer questions and share Split Rock’s unique history. Enjoy the introductory movie, explore the exhibit gallery, and walk in the footsteps of the original lighthouse keepers while visiting the restored Keeper’s Home, Fog Signal Building, Oil House, and of course, the Lighthouse itself.

Costumed interperative guides at Split Rock Lighthouse historical site on Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior

Participate in the Keeper’s Tour.

Looking for a truly unique experience? Try a Keeper’s Tour! This 60-minute guided tour leaves before the site opens and you get to see the grounds through the eyes of the keepers and their families.

Don’t have a lot of time, but still want to visit? Take advantage of the Grounds Pass option, which gets you access to the historic site and the view of Lake Superior from clifftop lighthouse.

Clifftop view from Split Rock Lighthouse

Clifftop view from Split Rock Lighthouse

In the off-season (November-December, and March-April),  purchase a Grounds Pass and check out the Visitor Center, Museum Store, Museum, and the historic grounds. Read about exploring Split Rock Lighthouse during the winter months: Split Rock Lighthouse: a Sweet Winter Treat.

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

For more information about hours, admission, and events visit: mnhs.org/splitrock

Split Rock Lighthouse Museum

Introducing the new exhibit at Split Rock Lighthouse’s Radzac Family Gallery! This captivating exhibit blends stories and perspectives, enriching the understanding of its history and significance. Come explore and appreciate the heritage and resilience of this historic landmark!

The centerpiece of the exhibit is the replica Third-Order Fresnel lens. As it spins in the center of the room, it gives you an up-close look at the scientific artistry behind the powerful beam of light that signaled ships on Lake Superior.

The exhibit is an immersive journey beyond the keepers’ work. Experience the lives of their families through artifacts like Keeper Colville’s snowshoes and Elena Colville’s camera. Oral histories and first-person accounts offer unique insights into family life at the lighthouse.

Discover the lighthouse’s impact on art and tourism, with paintings by esteemed artists like Mike Lynch and Doris Lynn, and an original George Morrison print. Witness the challenges faced by keepers, with compelling footage of transporting the building supplies by boat on Lake Superior and the ingenious pipe system to deliver water to the site.

Replica of the Third-Order Fresnel lens of Split Rock Lighthouse.

Replica of the Third-Order Fresnel lens.

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. Soon after, Congress appropriated $75,000 to build Split Rock Lighthouse. It was commissioned in 1910.

The Lake Superior International Highway opened in 1924 (now known as Highway 61, the North Shore Scenic Drive). 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 

 

Split Rock Lighthouse beacon lighting

Beacon lighting

Split Rock Lighthouse Season 

June 1 – October 23, 2023

During peak season, explore Split Rock Lighthouse through three different ticket options. Each ticket includes access to the exhibit gallery, a 13-minute movie about the lighthouse’s construction, and the scenic trails around the historical site. Operating hours from Monday to Sunday is 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

  1. The Grounds Pass offers a self-guided experience, providing access to the visitor center, historic grounds, and fog signal building. Prices are $8 free MNHS members (on site only).
  2. The General Admission ticket allows you to explore all buildings, including the lighthouse, at your own pace, with staff available to assist.
  3. For a more immersive experience, choose the Keeper’s Tour, a private guided tour that includes the lighthouse and keeper’s house, along with general admission access.

October 24 – December 18, 2023

During late fall – early winter, Split Rock Lighthouse -has reduced hours and is open  from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It remains closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as well as on Thanksgiving Day (November 23, 2023).

During this period, visitors have two ticket options.
1. The Grounds Pass costs $8 and includes access to the visitor center, historic grounds, and fog signal building. Minnesota Historical Society member (MNHS) members can access the Grounds Pass for free, but only those who have duty onsite.

2. For a more immersive experience, visitors can opt for the Keeper’s Tour, a private 60-minute guided tour that includes the lighthouse and keeper’s house. The tour is offered at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm on Saturdays, starting from October 28. The cost is $25, with a reduced rate of $20 for MNHS members. Children aged 4 and under are can participate for free.

December 19 – 25, 2023

The lighthouse, visitor center, and historic grounds are closed.

December 26, 2023 – January 1, 2024

During the winter season, from October 24 to December 18, 2023, Split Rock Lighthouse offers a Grounds Pass for visitors. The site’s hours are from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm every day of the week. However, during this time, the lighthouse and historic building interiors are  closed. The Grounds Pass allows visitors to access the visitor center museum and historic grounds. The cost of the Grounds Pass is $8, but it is free for MNHS members. Children aged 4 and under can enter for free as well.

Please note that during the winter period, visitors will not have access to the inside of the lighthouse and the interiors of historic buildings. The focus of the experience is exploring the visitor center and enjoying the beautiful grounds including the outside of the lighthouse and clifftop Lake Superior views.

See Split Rock Lighthouse’s full schedule 

How to Get There 

Split Rock Lighthouse is located at mile marker 46 along  Highway 61. It is between Castle Danger and Beaver Bay.

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