May–June 2024

Bucket List

Tour the Renovated Soudan Mine

Cheri Zeppelin

If you’ve ever traveled 2,341 feet underground in a dimly lit, somewhat noisy metal cage, chances are you were touring Soudan Underground Mine in northern Minnesota.

Minnesota Iron Company began mining operations at the site in 1882 with a series of seven open pits, and eventually took operations underground to safely access deep ore deposits. U.S. Steel later acquired the mine, which was operated by its subsidiary, Oliver Mining Company. Known for its geologic stability and safety, and wages that were often two to three times that of neighboring mines, Soudan eventually earned the nickname “The Cadillac of Mines.”

In the early 1960s, U.S. Steel shut down the operation and donated it—and 1,000 acres of surrounding land—to the State of Minnesota to be preserved and operated as a state park. Today, the old facility is a highlight of the larger Lake Vermilion–Soudan Underground Mine State Park, drawing about 34,000 visitors a year.

After a series of closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2023 replacement of the concrete shaft lining and 85-year-old structural steel, the mine is set to reopen for tours on May 25. The recent renovation proved challenging for engineers and tradespeople, as they had to perform their work in a dark, narrow shaft with only the existing cage to transport materials. 

A steel fabrication plant and concrete plant were erected on-site, and hoist operators kept the reconstruction work flowing 24 hours a day. In all, 866 cubic yards of rock and debris and 40,000 square feet of concrete and corrugated steel shaft lining were removed, while 2,000-pound steel beams and tons of concrete were transported into the shaft, load by load, by the same 5-by-6½-foot  cage and 100-year-old hoist experienced by tour participants.

In addition to its rich mineral and historical resources, Soudan Mine is the state’s largest bat hibernaculum. To protect bats during roosting season, construction schedules were carefully planned, and efforts were made to minimize noise disturbance. 

Minnesota’s investment in the reconstruction of Soudan Mine helps ensure that people can continue to benefit from this National Historic Landmark for generations.

The Underground Mine Experience
From late May through the third week of October, visitors can experience the life of a miner on the 90-minute Soudan Mine tour. Participants check in at the park’s visitor center for their scheduled tour, view an eight-minute orientation video, don a hard hat, and take an exhilarating three-minute cage ride nearly a half-mile down the mine shaft.

Once underground, guests board a rail train and travel nearly a mile into the deepest and last area mined. There, interpreters dressed in period clothing portray true stories of the working conditions and life experiences of miners and explain how early gold-rush prospectors spurred the development of the mine when they discovered high-oxygen hematite ore so rich in iron that two rocks could be welded together.

Know Before You Go

  • The temperature in the mine is a constant 51 degrees year-round. Wear a jacket and sturdy boots or shoes.
  • Tour cost: $15 adults (ages 13 and up), $10 youth (ages 5-12), children (under 5) free, but a ticket is required. Reservations are recommended.
  • No purses, backpacks, or strollers are allowed underground.
  • The three-minute cage ride down to the mine is in a dimly lit, closed, confined space.
  • Other than the Walking Drift Tour, all mine tours are fully accessible. A powered wheelchair is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Learn more at