SPLIT ROCK LIGHTHOUSE STATE PARK
From the wayside parking area, the Split Rock River Trail ascends the west side of the river valley. This portion of the hike is rather strenuous as the trail is steep in places. Your reward is dramatic views of the river descending in torrents of whitewater between cliffs topped with cedars, pines, and white birch.
Shortly after starting out, the trail crosses an unnamed stream. A small waterfall lies just above the bridge in the shade of large cedar trees. This is a cool place even on the hottest summer days. Once past the stream the trail begins to climb in earnest with occasional very steep ascents; but there are several places to rest and enjoy the river.
Near the top of the falls, the trail passes an area known as The Pillars. These chimney-like formations are made of rhyolite, an red igneous rock. As rhyolite cools, it develops vertical cracks that make it susceptible to weathering into sheer cliffs. This weathering pattern accounts for the dramatic cliffs at Palisade Head and Shovel Point further up the North Shore. In the area of the Pillars, shingle-like pieces of rhyolite litter the trail.
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