Good Morning Duluth!
The plan for today is to visit Split Rock Lighthouse and on the way we decided to stop at Gooseberry Falls.
On the way to Gooseberry Falls!
Gooseberry Falls State Park is a small park with only 1,682 acres, but the park is well known for it’s five waterfalls and log and stone structures built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). It is a beautiful park and visited often by bird watchers. Over 225 species of birds nest or visit the park. The park lies along the North Shore flyway so bird watchers also see many migratory birds. It is located on Lake Superior and fisherman are always pleased with their catch of Lake Superior Salmon and Trout.
My fascination has always been with trees. How do they grow the way they do? How can they grow out of a rock? How does a tree not collapse when it’s growing sideways out of a rock with exposed roots? Can those roots actually hold a tree up when it’s hanging on its side? Apparently so.
The 300-foot long “Castle in the Park” is a retaining wall that was built by the CCC. This is only one of their many contributions to the park.
On to the Split Rock Lighthouse. I am partial so naturally I think it is one of the best in America, but it appears only lighthouses on the ocean make that list. In 2010 it was named one of the top 20 “prettiest” though. I’ve never thought of lighthouses as “pretty” but I do take some consolation in that.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is comprised of 2200 acres and operated by the State, but the 25 acre lighthouse and visitor’s center site was turned over to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1976 for administration purposes. I might mention here that if you are a member of the Minnesota Historical Society your admission to this site is free.
In 1905 a severe storm on Lake Superior sank or damaged 20 ships on western Lake Superior and in 1909 the federal government contracted to have the Split Rock Light Station built. It was commissioned on July 31, 1910. Looking at “Gold Rock” below you will see two white markers in the water. This marks the place where the Madeira went down at 5:30 AM on November 28th, 1905 in what is still described as the worst storm ever in the history of Lake Superior. Only one man was lost in this wreck thanks to Fred Benson, a Scandinavian crewman, who grabbed a line and climbed the 60 foot cliff to the top. He then dropped the line rescuing 8 of his shipmates. At roughly the same time the Edenborn grounded and broke in two four miles from Split Rock. The Split Rock Lighthouse owes its existence to this November 28th storm.
The Lighthouse had three keepers who lived on the remote and barren rock in isolation except for the short visits from their families. The only access to the station was by boat so visits were infrequent as were delivery of supplies. The keepers did return to their home and family during the annual winter shut down in December. It wasn’t until 1924 that the Lakeshore International Highway was built. The highway ran along the shoreline connecting Duluth to Canada. Visits from family were now more frequent and by 1930 the keepers and their families lived at the station. Three identical houses, each with a garage/barn were built. The Lakeshore International Highway also opened the door to visitors to the lighthouse.
Most – if not all – photographers take their picture of the Lighthouse from the shoreline shown in the picture below. The picture of the lighthouse here was taken from the shoreline by Bill Toninato.
Time to say good bye to the Split Rock Lighthouse, but we’ll be back on November 10th for the annual lighting of the beacon in memory of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald and the 29 men who lost their lives on November 10th, 1975.
Heading home we make a brief stop at Silver Creek Cliff so Bill can walk up the Gitchi-Gami Trail. This trail runs through Gooseberry Falls State Park and the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. The trail was actually part of the main road before the tunnel was opened in 1994. The original Highway 61 at that point was narrow and had wood posts on the lake side to keep you from driving into Lake Superior. You will notice in the pictures that even walking on it today could be hazardous.
And there you have it – 2 days or 49 hours! While we planned to see Banning State Park and the Lighthouse all other sites were a stop because we thought it would be fun and interesting. We did not feel rushed and we not only saw what we came to see, but we saw what we saw! And we all know a tourist sees what they came to see and a traveler sees what they see ! Happy traveling whether it’s a day, a couple days or longer.