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.