The U.S. Lighthouse Service completed the Split Rock Lighthouse in 1910 to help curtail a growing number of shipwrecks along Lake Superior. The notorious Mataafa Storm incident in 1905 split an iron carrier in two and killed nine of its 24 crewmen. By the late 1930s, former lighthouse keeper Franklin Covell was logging 100,000 annual visitors in what had become one of Minnesota’s leading tourist attractions. According to the Minnesota Historical Society, Split Rock was so popular at the time that the Coast Guard called it “probably the most visited lighthouse in the United States.”
None of this is surprising when you consider what a big attraction it remains today, despite the actual lighthouse ceasing operation and shuttering in 1969, once improved radar systems were introduced. (Thanks a lot, technology!)
State officials realized they made a mistake by the early ‘70s and began to think about ways to restore and celebrate Split Rock’s historic role on the North Shore. The Minnesota Historical Society has been responsible for the national landmark’s preservation since 1976. So, yes, you can blame them for the period costumes and thank them for everything else—like the 171 steps that lead to a prime, lake-up vantage point. While the schlep back up may leave you winded, the widescreen view of Two Harbors’ century-old icon is worth breaking a sweat.
Split Rock Lighthouse
3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Road, Two Harbors, MN; 218-226-6372.