New campground at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park set to open June 1

Split Rock Lighthouse sits atop a cliff
Split Rock Lighthouse sits atop a cliff along the North Shore of Lake Superior. A new campground is set to open in June at the surrounding state park.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

The opening date has now been set for a long-awaited new state park campground on Minnesota's North Shore.

The 46-site Shipwreck Creek campground at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park will open on June 1. Campsite reservations will start being accepted on April 5, at 8 a.m.

The park currently has walk-in camping, but the new campground will offer the first vehicle-accessible campsites at Split Rock.

It's the culmination of years of planning and two years of construction.

A campsite in a campground
A campsite at the new Shipwreck Creek campground at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park on Minnesota's North Shore. The campground is set to open to the public on June 1.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

"It's very exciting to see it come to this point where we can open to the public and show them all the work that has been done, and try to get a visualization of what things will look like after the trees and shrubs and stuff that we planted really take off," said park manager Katie Foshay, noting the park has been receiving calls and emails from people eager to know when the campground is opening.

The campground's name is inspired by the many shipwrecks along the stretch of Lake Superior shore near the park — though the campground itself is located on the inland side of State Highway 61. It'll be accessed by using the existing park entrance, and then following a new road that circles back underneath the highway — similar to Tettegouche State Park.

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The rocky terrain provided both challenges and opportunities in building the new campsites and shower building.

A shower and bathroom building at a campground
The shower and bathroom building at the new Shipwreck Creek campground at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

"We tried to incorporate this campground into the natural landscape as much as possible" Foshay said. "So different sites have different unique features. Some of them have cliffs or rocks that are sticking up, boulders, right in the campsite, that makes it a very unique experience."

All that and plenty of level ground for tents or trailers, of course. Each campsite also has electrical service. The campground will be seasonal, and not open in winter.

There's no access to the campground yet — once the snow melts construction crews will need to finish up work this spring, such as installing signage.

A map of campsites in a campground
A map of the new Shipwreck Creek campground at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park on Minnesota's North Shore. The campground is set to open to the public on June 1.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Once complete there'll also be a parking lot to serve the new Split Rock Wilds mountain bike trails built by Lake County and other partners, on land adjacent to the state park.

Funding for the campground project — about $7.5 million — is from the state Parks & Trails Legacy Fund. Lake County received a $1.6 million grant from the state for construction of the access road to the campground and trail parking area.

Foshay said it's expected to be another busy spring and summer along the North Shore — with the increase in park visitation seen during the pandemic showing no signs of letting up.

The campground will be opening in time for the peak of that summer travel season. Reservations, once they’re open, can be made online; there’s no waitlist or other advance option.

"To see and be a part of the construction process for the last two years has been very exciting — and it's fun to see it come to fruition," Foshay said.