6,797 annual visits
Mine tours are led by interpreters who all have a mining background. In addition to mine tours, interpreters also lead park fossil hunts during the summer season. Tours are held Friday and Saturday, Memorial Day - Labor Day. Group and school tours can be made by special arrangement. Call the park to arrange.
Trees and plants have grown back to revegetate this area scarred by the effects of open pit mining. Wildlife has also made a comeback and once again, the landscape includes deer, coyotes, timber wolves, bear and grouse. Most impressive is the return of birds of prey including eagles and hawks that come back to hunt and nest in the park. The park is also a release site for peregrine falcons.
The history of Hill Annex dates back more than a century. The land was originally leased for mineral exploration in 1892. It was leased again in 1900 for a period of more than 50 years. Mining began in 1913 and continued until 1978. Hill Annex Mine produced 63 million tons of iron ore, and was the sixth largest producer in the state.
Over its 60 years of operation, mining technology changed drastically. In the early days, horses provided the power. Eventually steam and then electrical power replaced the horse-drawn equipment.
When the high-grade ore finally played out, the mine was sold to the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB)for $1. The IRRRB developed the tour route, converted the clubhouse into a museum/visitor center, and gave tours of the mine for 10 years. In 1988, the Minnesota Legislature made Hill Annex Mine a state park.
The origins of the underlying bedrock formations in the park date back over 2.7 billion years. The two bedrock formations are an iron-bearing metamorphic formation and a metamorphosed sedimentary rock formation. Although the area was mined extensively, it is probable that deposits of other minerals still remain.
The open pit mine has become a lake frequented by osprey, gulls and loons. When the mine shut down in 1978, the pumps that kept it dry over the decades were stopped, and the water seeped back in. The tour offers visitors panoramic views of the mine pit lakes and the rock walls in their various hues of red.