DULUTH – North Shore campers will have new sites and trails to explore later this year once a decades-in-the-making addition to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is complete.
Construction is underway on 46 new campsites that will be the first camping spots accessible by car in the state park, said Katie Foshay, the park manager. Lake County is simultaneously building out almost two dozen miles of mountain bike trails that will be connected to the addition, which is on track to open next fall.
The campground, dubbed Shipwreck Creek, will have electric service for each site, a shower facility and a host on site to answer questions.
"We're definitely expecting to see a broad user base with this being a drive-in campground that's more welcoming to all kinds of users," said Foshay, noting that Split Rock Lighthouse State Park's existing campsites are for walk-in or cart-in users only.
The new campground is located farther inland, on the side of Hwy. 61 opposite Lake Superior. Cars will enter the park through the main access point and drive on a new road that crosses under the highway.
Work on the sites began in late 2019, but a vision for the campground was included in one of the park's original management plans in 1980, Foshay said. Minnesota's Parks and Trails Legacy Fund paid for the $7.5 million campground project, and the county received an additional $1.6 million grant to build a new roadway to the campground.
A new parking lot will serve as a connector between the trails and the campground. Twelve miles of trails are already up and running, though they won't be accessible from the state park until the campground opens, and an additional 10 miles are being developed.
Campsites at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park are regularly booked up through the summer, even before the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a booming interest in outdoor recreation.
"We hope that this is going to help fill that need a little bit," Foshay said.
The new campground was named after a body of water that runs through the park. Trails in the county's new system — dubbed the Split Rock Wilds Mountain Bike Trails — will follow the nautical theme with names based on shipwrecks and lighthouse keepers.
Foshay said the new campsites incorporate a lot of the natural bedrock that will make the experience "unique and unforgettable." Some sites are backed up to a cliff, and a few will have a view of Lake Superior.
"It won't be long before people are picking their favorites," Foshay said.
Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478