Split Rock Lighthouse – Two Harbors, Minnesota - Atlas Obscura

Split Rock Lighthouse

This picturesque cliffside beacon no longer calls to sailors but shines once a year in honor of a famous shipwreck. 


This historic lighthouse along Minnesota’s North Shore is no longer lit save for one night a year on the anniversary of Gordon Lightfoot’s meal ticket, the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The cliffside lighthouse is built on a 130-foot wall of rock overlooking Lake Superior. It was completed in 1910 after the disastrous Mataafa Storm wrecked 29 ships in the area five years previous. It lit the coast of the lake until the light was retired in 1969 after modern navigation technology rendered the picturesque lighthouse obsolete save for aesthetic purposes. It now is surrounded by Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and is run by the Minnesota Historical Society. The lighthouse remains a popular stop on the North Shore Scenic Drive, Minnesota Highway 61.

Though the lighthouse no longer acts as a beacon across the lake, for one day and night every November 10, the light is lit after a ceremony commemorating the day of the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. The names of all 29 crewmembers are read to the tolling of a ship’s bell. Visitors to the ceremony can then climb the lighthouse after dark and see the light radiate to the waters in their memory, like it did for many years before.

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