Split Rock River

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Split Rock River
Gitchi Gami State Trail at Split Rock River.jpg
The Gitchi-Gami State Trail crossing near the mouth of the Split Rock River
CountryUnited States
Physical characteristics
 - locationLegler Lake, Silver Creek Township, Lake County, Minnesota
 - elevation1,020 ft (310 m)[1]
 - location
Lake Superior at Silver Creek Township, Lake County, Minnesota
Basin size40 sq mi (100 km2)

The Split Rock River is a 3.5-mile-long (5.6 km)[2] river of Minnesota, in the United States. It drains a small watershed of about 40 square miles (100 km2) on the North Shore of Lake Superior. The name was used as early as 1825 and is believed to refer either to the steep-walled gorge carved by the river[3] or to two cliffs east of the river mouth that appear split apart.[4] An indigenous name for the river was Gininwabiho-zibi, meaning "War Eagle Iron River."[4] The river's lower course flows through Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, and the Superior Hiking Trail ascends and descends both banks. There is a separate stream called Split Rock Creek nearby.


The East and West Split Rock River branches arise in wetlands near Legler Lake.[1] The branches join 3.5 miles (5.6 km) upstream from its mouth. Over the next 2 miles (3 km) the river drops 110 feet (34 m) in elevation, then drops 350 feet (110 m) over the next mile. Only in its final mile does the river level out and slow before emptying into Lake Superior.[5]

There are ten waterfalls on the river, although because they can only be reached by a moderate hike on the Superior Hiking Trail they are lightly visited.[6]


From 1899 to 1906 the river basin was logged of its red and white pines. The logging operation included the town of Splitrock, Minnesota at the river mouth and a 10-mile-long (16 km) rail line to carry lumber down to the lakeshore. During the Mataafa Storm of November 28, 1905 seven ships were wrecked within a dozen miles of the Split Rock River, including the steel steamboat William Edenborn right at its mouth. This prompted the construction of the Split Rock Lighthouse on a nearby cliff.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Geographic Names Information System". U.S. Geological Survey. 1980. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed May 7, 2012
  3. ^ Upham, Warren (2001). Minnesota Place Names: A Geographical Encyclopedia. St Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87351-396-7.
  4. ^ a b Fritzen, John (1974). Historic Sites and Place Names of Minnesota's North Shore. Duluth, MN: St. Louis County Historical Society.
  5. ^ Fenton, Howard (1999). 50 Circuit Hikes: A Stride-by-Stride Guide to Northeastern Minnesota. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-4199-4.
  6. ^ Johnson, Steve; Belanger, Kenneth (2007). Minnesota Waterfalls. Madison, WI: Trails Books. ISBN 978-1-931599-80-1.
  7. ^ Wolff, Jr., Julius F. (1990). Lake Superior Shipwrecks. Duluth, MN: Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. ISBN 0-942235-02-9.

Coordinates: 47°10′55″N 91°24′28″W / 47.18194°N 91.40778°W / 47.18194; -91.40778