Lighthouses of the United States: Minnesota

Minnesota is about as far away from the ocean as it is possible to be in the United States, but it has a shoreline on Lake Superior and a major port at Duluth. Most of the ship traffic carries iron ore from the Mesabi Range north of Duluth.

The state has 7 active lighthouses and one ruined lighthouse tower. There is no state lighthouse preservation society, but there are well-organized preservation efforts at several of the sites.

Aids to navigation in Minnesota are maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard Ninth District, but ownership (and sometimes operation) of historic lighthouses has been transferred to local authorities and preservation organizations in many cases.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. USCG numbers are from volume 7 of the U.S. Coast Guard List of Lights.

General Sources
Seeing the Lights - Minnesota
Terry Pepper's site has fine photos and accounts of visits to the lighthouses.
Minnesota Lighthouses
Photos and historical accounts by Kraig Anderson.
Lighthouses in Minnesota, United States
Excellent aerial photos posted by Marinas.com.
Minnesota Lighthouses
Photos by Bob and Sandra Shanklin.
Lighthouses of the Great Lakes - Lake Superior
This site by Neil Schultheiss has photos and accounts of most of the Minnesota lighthouses.
Lighthouses in Minnesota
Photos available from Wikimedia.
Lighthouses of Lake Superior
Photos posted by C.W. Bash.
Coast Guard Lighthouses - Minnesota
Historic photos and notes, posted by the U.S. Coast Guard Historian's office.
National Maritime Inventory - Minnesota
National Park Service inventory of Minnesota lighthouse data.
Lights of Lake Superior
Bill Britten has very good photos of the Split Rock, Two Harbors, and Duluth Breakwater lights.
Leuchttürme USA auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.

Two Harbors Light
Two Harbors Light, Two Harbors, September 2012
Flickr Creative Commons photo
by Pete Markham

Lake Superior Lighthouses

Cook County Lighthouses
*** Grand Marais (2)
1922 (station established 1886). Active; focal plane 48 ft (15 m); white flash every 2.5 s. 34 ft (10 m) square pyramidal steel skeletal tower with lantern, gallery, and enclosed workroom below the lantern; original 5th order Sautter & Cie. Fresnel lens (1886, transferred from previous tower). Lighthouse painted white; lantern roof is red. Fog horn (2 blasts every 30 s). The 2-story keeper's house (1896) is operated as a maritime museum. Mykl Roventine's photo is at right, Anderson has a fine page with several photos, and Marinas.com has aerial photos, and Bing has a satellite view. Pepper has a historic view of the original lighthouse, a 32 ft (9.5 m) square pyramidal wood tower similar to many Canadian lights. When the breakwater was extended in 1922, the old tower was in poor condition, so it was replaced by the prefabricated steel tower that still stands. The tower is located at the end of the eastern harbor breakwater, off US 61 in Grand Marais. The breakwater is not walkable, but the lighthouse can be viewed at close range from the base of the pier. The keeper's house is onshore at the end of Broadway. Site open, museum open daily late May to late October, tower closed. Owner: U.S. Coast Guard (tower) and Cook County Historical Society (keeper's house). ARLHS USA-330; USCG 7-16615.
[Grand Marais West Breakwater] (2)
1960s (station established 1902). Active; focal plane 10 m (33 ft); green flash every 4 s. 8 m (26 ft) round cylindrical D9 tower, painted white with a green horizontal band. A photo of both lights is available, and Bing has a satellite view. The original light was a cast iron post attached to an oil storage tank. Located at the end of the west breakwater. Site status unknown. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-1383; USCG 7-16625.

Grand Marais Light, Grand Marais, July 2007
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Mykl Roventine

Lake County Lighthouses
Silver Bay
Date unknown. Active (privately maintained); focal plane 126 ft (38.5 m); white flash every 30 s. Light mounted atop a large industrial building. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. The building is part of a large plant that produces taconite (iron) pellets for the steel industry. Located at the harbor of Silver Bay, about 15 mi (25 km) northeast of Split Rock. Site and tower closed, but the building can be seen from the coastal highway (MN 61). Owner/site manager: Cliffs Natural Resources. USCG 7-16580.
**** Split Rock
1910. Inactive since 1969 (the light is operational; it is lit every November 10 and on other special occasions). Focal plane 168 ft (51 m). 54 ft (16.5 m) octagonal brick tower with lantern and gallery; original 3rd order Barbier Benard & Turenne bivalve Fresnel lens. The tower is unpainted brown brick, lantern black. Original brick fog signal building with two diaphone horns and three original 2-story brick keeper's houses. Mark Schindler's 2009 photo is at right, Anderson's page for the lighthouse has good photos, Pepper's page has other photos with extensive historical information, Britten has posted two fine photos, Marinas.com has aerial photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. Lighthouse Digest has a story on the history of the light station and its 90th anniversary celebration in 2000. The keeper's houses have been developed as a maritime museum. This is a complete, very well preserved light station, one of the best known and most picturesque on the Great Lakes. It was built after a furious storm in November 1905 led to multiple shipwrecks in the area. In 2001 the state bought adjacent land to preserve the view from the lighthouse. In 2002, a fund drive was launched to raise funds for repair of the Fresnel lens. The visitor center was expanded in 2003. In the spring of 2008 the exterior of the tower was repainted and resealed. The light is lit every November 10 in memory of the ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in Lake Superior during a gale on 10 November 1975. Located atop a spectacular cliff, off US 61 about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Two Harbors and 9 miles (15 km) southwest of Beaver Bay. Site open, museum (admission fee) open daily mid-May to mid-October and on weekends the rest of the year. Owner: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Split Rock Lighthouse State Park). Site manager: Minnesota Historical Society. ARLHS USA-783.
Split Rock Light
Split Rock Light, Lake County, August 2009
Flickr Creative Commons photo
by Mark Schlindler
**** Two Harbors
1892. Active (privately maintained); focal plane 78 ft (28 m); two white flashes every 20 s, flashes separated by 5 s. 49 ft (15 m) square cylindrical red brick tower with lantern and gallery, rising from a 2-story keeper's house; DCB-224 aerobeacon. Lantern painted white with a red roof. The original 4th order Fresnel lens, removed in 1969, is on display at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo, Ohio. Original frame assistant keeper's quarters, frame fog signal building and other light station buildings. Pete Markham's photo is at the top of this page, Lighthouse Digest has an article on the history of the light station, Terry Pepper has photos and a complete account, Anderson also has a good page with several photos, Marinas.com has aerial photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. Ownership of the lighthouse was transferred to the Lake County Historical Society in 1998. The main building is now operated as a bed and breakfast inn; the assistant keeper's quarters is restored and houses a museum. Located on the point between the two harbors (Agate Bay and Burlington Bay), off US 61 in the town of Two Harbors. Site open; tower open to tours daily May through October and by arrangement during the winter. Owner: Lake County Historical Society. Site manager: Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast. ARLHS USA-861; USCG 7-16500.
* Two Harbors East Breakwater
1897. Active; focal plane 32 ft (10 m) ; red flash every 6 s. 25 ft (7.5 m) square pyramidal steel skeletal tower with lantern, gallery, and enclosed workroom below the lantern. Lighthouse painted white; lantern roof is red. Fog horn (2 blasts every 30 s). The Shanklins also have a photo, Marinas.com has aerial photos, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of the breakwater not far from the Two Harbors light station. Accessible by walking the breakwater. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-1024; USCG 7-16505.

St. Louis County (Duluth Area) Lighthouses

Note: The port of Duluth is located at the western end of Lake Superior, with its harbor protected by a long barrier spit. A short canal, crossed by the Aerial Lift Bridge, cuts through the spit. The city represents the western end of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes waterways, which connect it to the Atlantic Ocean 2300 mi (3700 km) to the east.
* Duluth Harbor North Pier
1910. Active; focal plane 43 ft (13 m); red light on 3 s, then off 3 s. 37 ft (11 m) round cast iron tower with lantern and gallery, mounted on the end of the concrete breakwater; the original 5th order Henry-Lepaute Fresnel lens (1881) is in use. Lighthouse painted white, lantern black. Sibling of the Peche Island Light, Michigan. Schultheiss has Dave Wobser's page on this lighthouse, Anderson has a fine page with good photos, Marinas.com has aerial photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. A webcam shows images of this lighthouse and the South Breakwater Outer Light. Located near the Lake Superior Marine Museum in Canal Park just north of the Aerial Lift Bridge. Accessible by walking the pier. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-238; USCG 7-15855.
* Duluth Harbor South Breakwater Outer (2)
1901 (station established 1874). Active; focal plane 44 ft (13 m); continuous green light. 35 ft (10.5 m) cylindrical brick tower with lantern and gallery, mounted on square brick fog signal building; original 4th order Barbier & Fenestre Fresnel lens (1877, transferred from earlier tower) in use. Lighthouse painted white; lantern roof and fog signal building roof are red. Fog horn (two 3 s blasts every 60 s). The original wood keeper's house is located onshore. Ron Wiecki's photo is at right, Anderson's fine page has good photos, Schultheiss also has Dave Wobser's page on this light, Marinas.com has aerial photos, and Google has a satellite view. Google also has a street view from the Aerial Lift Bridge that shows both south breakwater lights. The original lighthouse was a square pyramidal wood tower. It was replaced when a new and longer breakwater was built; Pepper has a historic photo of this construction in 1900. In 1995 the Coast Guard installed, as an addition to the modern fog signal, the historic type F diaphones originally installed at Kewaunee Pierhead Light, Wisconsin. In 2003 the city council approved a proposal of TOOT Inc. (reTurn Our Old Tone) to operate the diaphones during daylight hours, but the modern (and softer) signal was used at night. Sadly, the operation of the diaphones came to an end in 2006 when the Coast Guard stopped maintaining the electrical equipment needed to operate the horns; they are now dismantled and in storage. A webcam shows images of this lighthouse and the North Pier Light. Located at the end of the breakwater just south of the Aerial Lift Bridge. Accessible by walking the breakwater. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Coast Guard. ARLHS USA-237; USCG 7-15845.

Duluth South Breakwater Outer Light, Duluth, August 2008
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Ron Wiecki
* Duluth Harbor South Breakwater Inner (2)
1901 (station established 1889). Active; focal plane 68 ft (21 m); white flash every 5 s. 67 ft (20.5 m) square pyramidal steel skeletal tower with lantern, double gallery, and central cylinder. The original 4th order Fresnel lens (1896), with its pedastal and rotating mechanism, is on display at the Lake Superior Marine Museum. Lighthouse painted black, except watch room and lantern sides are white. C.W. Bash's photo is at right, Anderson's page has good photos, Marinas.com has aerial photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. In 2007 the lighthouse was offered for transfer under NHLPA. When no preservation groups qualified to receive it, it was sold at auction in the fall of 2008 to Steve Sosna and Matt Kampf, two residents of Duluth. Sosna and Kampf have not indicated their plans for the lighthouse. Located adjacent to the Aerial Lift Bridge. Accessible by walking the breakwater. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: private. ARLHS USA-240; USCG 7-15860.
Minnesota Point (ruins)
1858. Inactive since 1885. Ruined brick tower, originally 50 ft (15 m) tall but now truncated at about 30 ft (9 m). Traces of a former stucco coating cling to the red brick tower. Ivers McGraw has a photo, Brandon Smith has a 2007 photo, and Google has a satellite view. The keeper's house, formerly attached, was demolished prior to 1900. Ruins of the 1905 U.S. Lighthouse Service Buoy Depot are nearby. The site is endangered by beach erosion as well as by decay, and the lighthouse is on the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List. The Digest has a February 2003 article on the light station and a historic photo showing the original appearance of the lighthouse. Located on the west side of Superior Entry, the entrance to the harbor of Superior, Wisconsin. Accessible by a walk of 1.5 miles (2.5 km) on a gated dirt road from the Sky Harbor Airport at the end of Minnesota Street in the Park Point community. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. ARLHS USA-499.
St. Louis Bay Common Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 19 m (62 ft); red light, 3 s on, 3 s off. 19 m (62 ft) triangular cylindrical skeletal tower mounted on a round pier. Google has a satellite view and a street view from the Richard I. Bong Bridge (US 2). This tower carries the rear lights for two channels; the front lights are on similar but shorter towers. St. Louis Bay, the estuary at the mouth of the St. Louis River, is part of the boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. USCG 7-16020 (North Channel Range) and 7-16125 (South Channel Range).
Duluth South Breakwater Inner Light
Duluth South Breakwater Inner Light, Duluth, July 2007
Flickr Creative Commons photo by C.W. Bash

Mississippi River Lighthouses

Minneapolis Lighthouse
* Boom Island
Date unknown. Active (privately maintained and unofficial); focal plane about 55 ft (17 m); continuous white light. Approx. 45 ft (14 m) hexagonal tower with an open lantern, mounted on a hexagonal stone base. Tower painted white with a narrow blue horizontal band. Doug Wallick has a good photo, Becky McGuire has a closeup photo, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. The lighthouse stands at the entrance to a small basin opposite the landing used by river cruise ships. Boom Island is no longer an island; it is a former lumber camp, now a popular city park. Located on the east side of the Missisippi just south of the Eighth Avenue-Plymouth Avenue Bridge. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Wabasha County Lighthouse
*
Lake City Marina
2007. Active (privately maintained and unofficial); focal plane about 40 ft (12 m); light characteristic unknown. Approx. 36 ft (11 m) octagonal cylindrical wood tower with lantern and gallery, attached to a 2-story marina building. Building painted gray; lantern roof is red. Larry Nielson provided the photo at right, a 2007 photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. Lake City faces Lake Pepin, a 22 mile (35 km) long basin through which the Mississippi River flows about 65 mi (100 km) southeast of Minneapolis. Located at Franklin and Marion Streets, on the south side of the entrance to the marina from the river. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: City of Lake City.

Lake City Marina Light, Lake City, 2008
contributed photo copyright Larry Nielson; used by permission

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: Northeast: Western Ontario | Southeast: Northern Wisconsin | South: Iowa

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Posted November 15, 2003. Checked and revised January 20, 2014. Lighthouses: 13. Site copyright 2014 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.