Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

In the area

From Explore MN Tourism

Park Info

Image of Cuyuna Country State Park

Quick stats

4,626 acres
118,484 annual visits
3,098 overnight visits


The best way to learn more about Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area is to stop at the state recreation area office for information. The recreation area does not have a naturalist on staff, but interpretive programs are offered occasionally throughout the summer season at other state parks nearby and at Croft Mine.


American Bald Eagles frequent the area and visitors occasionally observe white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbit, snowshoe hare, raccoon, red fox, coyote, mink, muskrat and beaver. Other birds sighted in the recreation area include great blue heron, kingfishers, loons, turkey vultures, ruffed grouse, and red-tailed hawks. This is also great country for waterfowl and Cuyuna Country marshes and lakes are host to many species of ducks including redhead, northern shoveler, mallard, ring-necked, blue and green-winged teal, wood duck, several types of mergansers, snow geese, Canada geese, and white-fronted geese.


The Cuyuna area was a border area between the Dakota and the Ojibwe Indians and served as a long portage route from Mille Lacs Lake to the upper Mississippi River. It wasn't until the early 1900s that major changes took place in the area. Cuyler Adams, who homesteaded here in the late 19th century, noticed great compass deflections while surveying his land in 1903. He noted that this was probably due to the presence of iron ore beneath the surface. He was right. In 1904, Adams did discover ore and the range he discovered was subsequently named for him using the first three letters from Cuyler, and the three letter name of his St. Bernard dog, Una, his constant companion and prospecting partner. Cuyuna was the last of Minnesota's three major iron ranges to be discovered and mined. It extends almost 70 miles from Randall in Morrison County, northeast through Crow Wing County, and ends in central Aitkin County.

Drilling began in 1904 with the discovery by Adams of "good ore" in the area. By 1909, approximately 2,000 drill holes had been completed and new townsites of Cuyuna, Crosby, Ironton, Manganese, Riverton, and Trommald were established. Twenty to 30 mines operated in the area during the mining boom of World Wars I and II. Nearly 20 mines continued to operate in the early 1950s. Foreign competition and taconite mining on the Mesabi Range caused a virtual shutdown of the Cuyuna ten years later. Abandoned mining operations left behind a landscape dotted with mining pits 100 to 525-feet deep and rock stockpiles 200-feet high. Through the efforts of the Iron Range Resources Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB), Crow Wing County, local governments, two joint powers boards, volunteer groups, and the Department of Natural Resources, the area has become an outdoor recreation attraction and officially became a Minnesota State Recreation Area in 1993.


Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area is located in the St. Louis Moraines Subsection that was formed at the leading edge of repeating glacial advances. Its range of hills contain coarse gravel-like materials and boulders pockmarked with countless lakes, ponds, and bogs. Glacial drift in the area ranges from 100 to 200 feet in depth.


Over the last 20 years, the landscape that was dotted with mining pits and stockpiles has changed. The deep pits are now filled with crystal clear water and a variety of vegetation now covers the area. The result is 25 miles of natural shoreline with a considerable area of forested land containing trembling aspen, paper birch, basswood, red oak, ironwood, and big-tooth aspen. The marsh areas contain bulrush, cattail and sedge. These communities provide a home for a wide variety of wildlife. The area contains six natural lakes, plus an additional 15 deep lakes that were former mine pits. Trout, northern, bass, crappies, sunfish and walleyes inhabit the area's lakes.