Monday, July 5, 2021

Lake Vermillion - Soudan State Park/Mine - 2021/07

 "The 'Range"

As Minnesotan's we've heard these words forever and most of us that have lived here for any length of time know that the Iron Range is "up north".  Minnesota's Iron the Arrowhead.

A lot of history and an almost unfathomable amount of ore has come from the area.  Briefly, iron was discovered in the late 1800's and because of the remote locations of where it was found, huge investment was required to mine, process and ship it.  Rockefeller, Carnegie and Oliver were the big names involved to mine, move and ship the ore, names that created U.S. Steel.  Early on, mines were often underground but safety, access and improved technologies brought about the large open pit mines that are prominent these days.

Early on, high grade iron ore was the primary product and a lower grade ore, now known as taconite was considered a waste product.  As supplies and access to the high grade iron ore decreased, the taconite process became the primary source for iron.  A pelletized process developed in Minnesota, the little round balls of lower-grade iron have become the main ingredient for steel production.

At the Tower-Soudan State Park Mine, ore was mined the old way...underground and is the oldest, deepest and richest mine in Minnesota.  Physics experiments that were once conducted at Level 27 have for the most part been moved to the Homestake Mine in SD.

I knew about the State Park, the mine tours and a visit there was one of my goals during my week's vacation 'up North.

Cable system entering the Engine House...

On the shore of Lake Vermillion.....former Air Compressor House

Larry Cars carried the ore once it arrived up top in the Skips over to the Crusher House

Dumped in rail cars out at the end of the conveyor, sometimes stockpiled in huge piles.

In the Engine House, the Hoist that is used with each descend and ascend of the elevator cars.

I see Allis-Chalmers and I think Heavy....dams, turbines and machinery.

The hoist operator's command post.

East Shaft West Shaft

The Brake...

In the museum...

Couldn't help it...had to include this.  I bet I still can recite every page, at least I could about a Moon.

Dad had his hands full with these 2 little fella's.

He was anxious to get that chain down....the guy with the yellow hat.

The ride down, very close quarters, 11 people in a car.  3 minute ride down to Level 27.  From there a train ride, can't remember how far, then climb a very narrow spiral stair case two floors back up to Level 25.

Spiral staircase...

Finding seats on the train...

The Drill Shed, last operated in 1962.  The advent of Diamond Drills a huge advancement.

Watch the video to see the Engine House in action, some very interesting machinery used to keep the Cages moving up and down.

More content, more mine content and finally some time on the Himalayan soon.  There were more museums and places to visit though before getting on the bike.



  1. Your mine tour looks a lot more hands-on and more interesting than the tour I did of a salt mine recently.

    1. This was the best one I've ever taken. Can't remember where in Canada I took a tour years ago. I remember thinking then an equivalent tour of machinery and dangerous conditions never would have been allowed in the US. I appreciated our access. The Soudan mine is a great balance of safety and access in my opinion.

  2. Looks way cooler than the Quincy Mine tour in Houghton, too. Thanks for all the photos, Doug!!

    1. Thank you! I'm happy that I didn't wait any longer to visit the park and mine, really enjoyed myself.