Saturday, October 2, 2010

Split Rock Lighthouse

(This post is part of the back log I am working on. If you are getting it in a reader, I apologize, things will be out of order!)
One of my favorite sights on the North Shore of Lake Superior (really, the whole North Shore is my favorite, but...) is Split Rock Lighthouse. Lake Superior is the only place in Minnesota to see lighthouses, and Split Rock is definitely the most spectacular of them.

Split Rock LighthouseThe lighthouse was built in 1909-1910 on a 130 foot cliff of anorthosite. It was taken out of service in 1969, when modern navigating technology made it obsolete. It is now the property of the state. The Minnesota Historical Society operates the lighthouse site, while the Department of Natural Resources operates the surrounding state park. It costs extra to go into the lighthouse and keepers house, as well as into the visitor's center exhibits, but you can see the lighthouse from the park, too, which just requires the annual (or daily) permit that is good at all Minnesota State Parks.

Kiddo has always like going to Split Rock, though we have only been into the lighthouse on one previous occasion, I believe. We have often climbed the rocks on the beaches beneath the lighthouse. This year we have a Historical Society Membership, so a trip to the lighthouse when we were going to be on the North Shore anyway was a given. Kiddo looked forward to it for many weeks. We waited until Friday to go, because I found out that in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the lighthouse, they were lighting it (a rare occurrence) on the first Friday of every month. It just so happened we would be there on the first Friday of October.
A visit at that time was a must.

We arrived enough before sunset (the appointed time for the lighting) to tour the visitor center, the lighthouse and the keeper's house before the lighting. The visitors center has a few interesting hands on exhibits as well as a number of informational areas. The kids sorted fish (wooden, of course) in the exhibit about commercial fishing on the lake. We learned that the iron ore in the land on the North Shore of Lake superior (inland is called the Iron Range, and much taconite has been mined there) can interfere with traditional compasses, a problem for navigation! We also learned about the Fresnel lens of the lighthouse.

After our exploration, we went back to the car for a snack. The plan had been to drive down to the beach and then sit on the beach to get a better view of the lighthouse when it was lit. It was clear to us that moving the car was not going to happen...we would never get another place to park. So we walked down. It isn't far, but it was the end of the day and the kids were tired. They were troopers.

If you live in Minnesota, chances are you have seen at least one photograph of Split Rock. But unless you are viewing pictures from prior to 1969, few of them will be of the lighthouse lit. They do light it once a year, in November, and on other rare occurrences. The Coast Guard doesn't allow them to light it regularly, fearing it will interfere with navigation, I guess. I have been to the lighthouse many times, and never witnessed the light on.
Split Rock Lighthouse
It was spectacular. There were a bazillion people there (that is not an exaggeration, and I am sure a bazillion is a number!) Hubby and I looked around and commented on the value of all the photography equipment. I struck up a conversation with a couple of very nice women who set up near me. We talked photo equipment. I don't have what I want yet (I wish I had it before this event, but oh well!) so I asked questions. I had both of them trying to shoot with their left eyes, and finding it impossible! But that is how I always shoot. And that is why I don't have the equipment I want...left eye dominance sometimes puts important buttons in awkward locations on a camera--like right next to my largish nose! The women captured some beautiful photos. I was pretty pleased with what I managed to capture, too, though! Kiddo helped me frame some shots, too, and took great pleasure in seeing the results. We left when my battery died, and made the hike back to the car in the dark. The kids were hungry (there are few places to eat in the area), and tired, but they still thought it was great!

It was a great history field trip, a great experience!

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