Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Change your life at Split Rock

You heard it here first. Or maybe second. Big changes are planned for Highway 61, the North Shore's main corridor, in the Split Rock area. For fans of hiking, biking or just scenic viewing, the changes are welcome and overdue. Construction is planned for Spring 2010.

Above is the plan for reconstructing the facilities at the mouth of the Split Rock River. The parking lot on the west side of the river is one of the most popular trailheads for the Superior Hiking Trail. It's the start of the highly-used Split Rock River loop. On a busy summer or fall colors weekend, the lot fills to overflowing with cars and hikers are forced out onto Highway 61.

In the last few years, the parking lot is also being used for bikers on the Gitchi-Gami bike trail, across the highway. A beautiful new bike bridge crosses the river down below Highway 61.

To help you get your bearings, here's a photo from last summer of hikers headed west toward the new bike bridge:

Look closely at the plan, especially that thick gray line that wraps around the yellow parking lot. That's a bike/walk path that leads UNDER Highway 61 to join the bike trail down below. How cool is that? What better way to make crossing the highway safe again?

Another project a mile or so east will straighten out one of the last real curves on Highway 61 and make the historic wayside view point more special. The plan is hard to read like this, but note the thick curving gray line (that's the highway as it is now...the one place you really have to slow down to stay on the road now), and note the straight yellow line with two pieces dropping south. You'll leave the main road for a short stretch to get to the historic wayside, with its old stone wall and great view of the lighthouse. Now you will be able to enjoy the view without being concerned about the Monson trucks at your back.

No word yet if they will restore the historic baby bear cage.

There's a meeting tomorrow (February 12) in Beaver Bay at the community center to discuss the plan. Information is also online from MnDOT, including the maps I butchered.


Dave Carlson said...

Great post!

Blogging the North Shore said...

Thanks! I was thinking of you Dave when I wrote "You heard it here first. Or maybe second." Because I knew that you knew all about it.

Joel Truckenbrod said...

Very interesting. It does seem to be a parking lot that needs to be addressed. During the summer peak, my main thought (this goes for split rock SP and Gooseberry SP) is to keep on driving. While the improved parking would be helpful, it is a double edged sword in terms of encouraging more people to visit that particular area - good for tourism, bad for solitude. The North Shore is certainly "growing up" to be an increasingly developed tourist destination. I hope that the wild character isn't to compromised when we look back in 50+ years. It's certainly changed a great deal in the past 50.


Blogging the North Shore said...

Good observations, Joel. Highway 61 used to be more of a wilderness road, with lots of turns and easy pull-offs. But it is also a thoroughfare between Duluth and Thunder Bay. These improvements are part of a decades-long effort to make that thoroughfare more safe, while respecting the scenic and recreational qualities of the environment. Sometimes, one part of that equation has to suffer, and generally safety concerns win out. That's what's cool about the and access both improved.