Park Info

Image of Soudan Underground Mine State Park

Quick stats

1,322 acres
36,707 annual visits

Naturalist

Interpretive programs, such as bat programs, hikes, and mine tours are led by professional interpreters.

Wildlife

The hiking trails in Soudan Underground Mine State Park will take visitors through a variety of wildlife habitats. 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

George R. Stuntz, explorer, prospector and businessman, came to Minnesota’s northeast triangle as a surveyor. While working in the area, he was credited with finding the iron ore that began the Soudan Mine. Stuntz interested a Duluth banker, George Stone, in the ore deposits. Stone’s contacts in the east led to Charlemagne Tower’s interest in the mineral resources of the Lake Vermilion area.

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. On July 31, 1884, the first shipment of ore left for Two Harbors.

Manpower—men with picks, shovels, hand drills, and wheelbarrows—moved the ore out of the open pit to the railroad. Later, steam power was used to drill the ore and mules pulled carts of it out of the mine. By the 1890s, the mining process was converted to an underground operation.

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.

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.

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, 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.