old61 Historic U.S. 61: Split Rock Lighthouse Overlook

Split Rock Lighthouse Overlook

Located: 0.70 miles south of the main entrance to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park on the east side of State Highway 61, in Beaver Bay Township, Lake County.

Constructed: Designed in 1948, built in the early 1950's.

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Historic Context: Post new-deal (1940's-50's) Minnesota Department of Highways roadside development structures.

Status: Open to the public, in poor condition, but otherwise intact.

Access: Direct pull-off from the main highway (realignment of the highway in 2010/11 adjacent to the site will change this).

More U.S. 61 Articles

North >> Gitchi Gami Trail at Chapin's Curve

South >> Old Alignment at the Split Rock River

The Split Rock Lighthouse Overlook is a small wayside rest developed by the Minnesota Department of Highways in the early 1950's to provide a location for motorists to pull over and take in a view of the famous Split Rock Lighthouse.

The overlook consists of a 280 foot-long stone wall made of large gabbro stones, with an elevated viewing bay at its north end. Its design is indicative of (and most likely inspired by) earlier stone walls built by the Highway Department with the aid of various Federal "New Deal" labor programs in the 1930's and early 40's.

MnDOT surveyed the site in 1997 for inclusion in its inventory of Historic Roadside Development Structures. A comparison of its current condition (2010) with its condition as described in the report indicates that the site has been restored since then. Highway 61 adjacent to the site is currently being rebuilt and realigned.


Photos - taken in April, 2010.

Looking south down Highway 61 at one of two hanging "Parking Overlook" signs, located at each end of the overlook. The 1997 inventory of the site stated that the signs had been removed. The current signs are replacements, designed to match the originals.

Looking north down Highway 61, showing how the overlook was built to be directly accessible from the highway. Note the crumbling curb in the center of the photo - meant to serve as a rudimentary barrier between the road and the parking area.

Wide view of the overlook wall, showing its curved profile (looking northeast).

Geologic marker, placed at the overlook in 1955. Also note the rusted metal railings. The original design shows that these were supposed to be wood.

The main overlook bay, built to provide a direct view of Split Rock Lighthouse (visible in the background). Note the concrete steps, and the total lack of handicapped access.


  1. MNDOT Historic Roadside Development Structures Inventory - Split Rock Lighthouse Overlook
  2. MNDOT. Supplement to Historic Roadside Development Structures on Minnesota Trunk Highways. April 2005, updated 2006 and 2008.
  3. Minnesota Department of Highways. Roadside Development Plans, S.P. 3806-01. Approved 10-4-1948.

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