The Tale of Five Mile Rock 10.13.23

East of Grand Marais is a landmark island off Lake Superior's shore called Five Mile Rock. Once you pass it going west, you can be in line at World’s Best Donuts in Grand Marais in less than ten minutes. Eastbound travelers will be at the Kadunce River mouth (or Kodonce, as the State of Minnesota spells it both ways) in five. 

Five Mile Rock is so rugged even vacation townhouse developers aren’t able to build on it. It sits less than a mile offshore, five miles from Grand Marais.

It is a tourist attraction in its own right, though. So, an enterprising resident of Colvill thought he’d lend some assistance, and he prepared a tri-fold brochure in 2016 that presented a history of the island to help tourists understand how it came to be there. He printed a number of the flyers and handed them out during the annual Fishermen’s Picnic in Grand Marais that summer. A creative sort, this man, who wished to remain anonymous, so we will call him Anonymous, took some liberties with the facts.

But the story went viral, a little bit, at least. 

John and Laurie Nolan, full-time RVers, liked it so much that they put the story on their blog at

It also has its own website,, created by a gaggle of some Texans, acquaintances of Anonymous. They’ve added a few other stories about the Rock in addition to its history. All of them are entertaining. In a failed attempt, the Texans tried to create “The Five Mile Rock Preservation Society” and join the Adopt a Highway Program for that stretch of Highway 61.

According to Anonymous´s brochure, the rock was once a center of native culture on the shore. It sat just off the mouth of Devil Track River. Its legend grew when three men who went on to industrial and political renown in decades to come were stranded on the rock in the summer of 1891. Called Snag Island by the locals back then, the three survived off the fish they caught and the birds nesting in the crevices of the Island. Supposedly, when rescued, the men only complained that they had run out of beer.

In 1914, Life Magazine mentioned the incident in a feature story about one of the survivors. It then became one of the original tourist attractions on the shore.

Anonymous writes that the Island was moved to its current location in 1934 with a herculean effort overseen by the Coast Guard and Civilian Conservation Corps.

From the brochure, “In its permanent location, exactly five miles from Grand Marais, it was used by the Coast Guard to check visibility in foggy conditions. When they could not see the rock from their position on Coast Guard Point, they would sound the foghorn signaling that visibility was less than five miles.”

Of course, there isn’t a shred of truth in this tale, but we wanted to bring it to you today and help celebrate Friday the 13th with a smile. Check out those websites or Google “Five Mile Rock Lake Superior.” Have a great weekend.