Sunday we packed up and left Tettegouche State Park, resuming our journey down the lake. We ended up in Gooseberry Falls State Park located on—the Gooseberry River. There was no school on Monday (Columbus Day), so there was a huge bunch (150) of school kids (ages 16-18) camping in the park, right around our camper. They were coming and going all evening enjoying each other’s campfires, but cleared out early Monday morning. In a campground of 69 sites, there were only 4 sites (counting us) left occupied.
The state acquired the property in 1933, but had no funds to do anything with it. Fortunately, Roosevelt took office the same year and shortly thereafter the CCC was formed. A large contingent came here and started to build the infrastructure for the park. They were here for years and built a multitude of structures. They included an ice house, water tower, bath houses, numerous pavilions including elaborate picnic shelters that are totally enclosed, framed with log timbers and contain huge stone fireplaces. They also constructed footbridges, cabins, a lookout shelter, a ranger station and refectory. Created by Italian stonemasons working in local quarries, all the structures are notable for their distinctive red, blue, brown, and black granite. The biggest accomplishment was a huge palisade overlook designed to resemble a castle. Prominently built at the edge of the river, it provides terrific views of the waterfalls dropping both up and downstream. All of the structures are on the register of historic buildings.
Monday dawned overcast and cold. Once again, Melinda left before dawn as the lighthouse was calling her name. Despite the cloud cover, the sun broke through for just a moment and she was able to catch the predawn light.
Ready for a hearty breakfast on her return, we drove a couple of miles down the Lake for breakfast at the Splashing Rock Restaurant in the Grand Superior Lodge. Constructed from huge logs, it looked like it would be a really nice place to stay. They have both lodge rooms and large cabins to stay in.
Back at the park we toured the huge visitor center. It is also a rest area on the highway. They are building a similar facility at Tettegouche State Park.
Later, Melinda took off to take pictures of some of the waterfalls on the Gooseberry. Having a total of five falls, they are a prominent attraction of the park. It is also a big cross-country skiing place with miles of wooded trails. But it was the waterfalls that got her interest. She was out and about for many hours.
Chris took off for a bike ride. The Gitchi-Gami State Bike Trail starts in the park and goes all the way up the lake to Beaver Bay. (Future plans have the trail running the 150-mile length of the North Shore). Chris made it most of the way before it started to spit rain. We met back at the campground just as it started to rain in earnest.
Tuesday we walked the campground. After breakfast Melinda went off to take photos (waterfalls that she didn’t get yesterday) and Chris took off for another bike ride. It was unexpectedly clear, cool and windy. He made it all the way to Beaver Bay and bucked the wind all the way back. The bike trail winds through woods of birch trees and along the shore with views of the shore.
It’s 14 miles up to Beaver Bay. It also passes through Split Rock State Park, which is exceptionally scenic.
After cleaning up, we went down the lake a couple of miles to the Rustic Café for lunch. A north woods institution. Truly old and rustic with log walls and a river rock foundation. Lots of area photographs on display taken by local photographers were a special treat.
After lunch, it was up the lake to the Split Rock Lighthouse where there was a well-done Visitor’s Center and guided tours. In 1905 there was a big November storm on the Lake and 30 ships were damaged or sunk. Several sailors died. Steel was king at the start of the century, so the owners of the ore boats contacted their buddies in Congress and soon money was appropriated ($75,000) for the construction of a lighthouse. It took two seasons to build on the point of a 168-foot cliff. Keep in mind there was no road at the time. All of the materials had to come in by boat. They, along with all of the people, had to be hoisted up to the top of the cliff by a crane. It wasn’t explained how they got the crane up there in the first place.
The road was built in 1924, but it didn’t connect to the lighthouse until 1930. The keepers decided to build a road themselves so that a truck could haul in supplies. The Coast Guard eventually assumed responsibility for the light and then decommissioned it in 1969. They gave the property to the state who let the state historical society manage it. It, as well as the fog horn building, has been meticulously restored to its original look, along with one of the three houses built as residences for the keepers. The tour includes costumed docents that explain what the living conditions were like back in the lighthouse’s early days.
The light is no longer operational. It is lit a few times a year. It is always lit on November 10th to commemorate the sinking of the Edmond Fitzgerald. There are three identical houses for the light keepers (maintaining the light was pretty labor intensive, so there three of them). At first they were only part time residents during the shipping season. Eventually they stayed year round, along with their families.
Needless to say, the lighthouse is a big draw. Travelers are constantly pulling in. Moreover, Melinda can personally testify to the number of photographers it draws at just about any time of the day. There are multiple angles from which it is seen, all of them more or less dramatic. Hiking trails wind through the forest and over the rocks for some distances in both directions leading from it. As we have written, it is one of the most distinctive landmarks of the entire North Shore Drive.
Our last evening we walked the rocks lining the shore adjacent to our campsite. The wind picked up and Chris headed back to the warmth of the Airstream. Melinda lingered awhile, waiting to see what the last rays of dusk would bring.
Our trip is drawing to a close. Tomorrow we pack up and head down to our last stop in the small town of Two Harbors. It is a real town and we are looking forward to a change of pace from camping in the woods. As you can see from the map below, we have covered all the North Shore. We spent time in all those places and gleaned everything we could from what they had to offer. We think we saw most of it in the very favorable colors of Fall. It has been a trip that we’d highly recommend.
From Gooseberry State Park,
Chris and Melinda