Park Info

Image of Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park

Quick stats

4,048 acres
33,933 mine tour annual visits

Naturalist

The park has professional naturalists who provide interpretive programs including bat programs, hikes, skill-building activities, and mine tours.

Wildlife

The park is home to northern songbirds, loons, hawks, and owls. White-tailed deer, black bears, timber wolves, fishers, and many smaller animals also live in the park.

History

Mining has been a part of this parks past since 4,000 B.C. Starting with Native Americans the lands rich geology has been utilized for many purposes. From quarried rock outcrops to the Iron Ore production of more recent years the land brought people and the culture of the area to life.

After a number of expeditions into the area by a geology team who verified the quality of the ore, Tower formed the Minnesota Iron Company to buy land on the east side of the lake. Captain Elisha Morcom and his crew of miners arrived in 1884 to establish Minnesota’s first Iron Ore Mine. On July 31, 1884, the first shipment of ore left for Two Harbors. By the 1890s, the mining process was converted to an underground operation and soon it was to be known as the “Cadillac” of underground mines.

Electricity came in 1924. A new hoist, pumps, electric crusher, and other equipment was added. The high grade, extremely hard ore was in high demand. After World War II, the high cost of operating the Soudan Mine reduced profits. Changing technology and high operating costs forced the mine to close in 1962.

United States Steel Corporation donated the mine, and 1,200 acres around it, to Minnesota for a state park in 1963. In 2010 the remaining 2,848 acres was purchased from U.S. Steel for protection of Lake Vermilion shoreline and to bring in a new era for state parks. In May 2014, the boundary between the parks was legally erased and Lake Vermilion State Park and Soudan Underground Mine State Park were merged to become one park.

Geology

Ancient seas and volcanoes played a major role in the formation of the Soudan ore deposits.

Millions of years ago, broad seas spotted with volcanoes created deposits of low-grade ore on the sea floor. In time, great forces folded, compressed, and thrust the sea floor into mountain ranges and opened the ore deposits to the weather. Weathering concentrated the low grade ore into rich hematite.

Then came the glaciers flowing down from the Arctic. Four times they came south, cutting, crushing, and altering the land. As they retreated, they left a thick layer of debris--boulders, pebbles, soil--on the surface. The last glacier exposed an outcrop of rich hematite near Lake Vermilion. This outcrop later became the Soudan Mine.

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. Mixed in these formations are deposits of other minerals such as nickel, lead, gold, silver, copper, and zinc.

Landscape

The park is located on a rugged ridge on the south shore of Lake Vermilion and offers a unique combination of recreational opportunities, including picnicking, hiking, fishing, boating, snowmobiling, and tours of a former iron ore mine. Scenic stands of white and Norway pine, mixed with some balsam, aspen and birch, cover the upland areas. The lowlands are dominated by white cedar interspersed with balsam, tamarack, black spruce, ash and muskeg.