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At Lake Vermillion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park in Soudan, Minnesota, visitors can travel deep underground to the park’s mine and learn firsthand about its historic past.

Lake Vermillion’s hour-and-a-half traditional mine tour involves donning a hard hat and riding down in a “cage,” the mine’s elevator, nearly half a mile below the surface. Once below, groups visit the stope, the underground room used for extracting minerals. Tours are accessible and can accommodate up to three groups of 33 guests, broken into 30-minute rotations.

The cage ride is a three-minute ride underground, said James Pointer, interpretive supervisor at the park.

“[Visitors] love the cage ride, and the train ride back, especially train buffs,” he said.

While underground, groups learn about geology, the mining process, technology changes throughout mining history and mining economics.

Tour, Lake Vermillion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park
Credit: Lake Vermillion Park/James Pointer

“This mine was so important that during the wars, the men didn’t have to enter the draft because they were needed here to continue to operate the mine,” Pointer said. “It was a very important piece both to Minnesota history and to the nation’s history.”

Lake Vermillion offers two other tours. One is an accessible science tour through an old University of Minnesota physics lab on level 27, the lowest underground level of the mine. Groups learn about the mine’s past research experiments, as well as current research about microbes found in water at the mine. The third tour, not accessible, focuses on key geological features and mining exploration. It is a two-hour tour that can accommodate two groups of 10.

Lake Vermillion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park
Credit: Lake Vermillion Park/James Pointer

Tours are not the only thing to do at Lake Vermillion. Historic buildings, such as the crusher house, drill shop and visitor center, are open to visitors. There also are hiking trails, one of which leads to the mine’s deepest pit, as well as GPS units for geocaching. Bird kits help guests view the 100-plus species of birds on-site.

“It’s a must-see attraction here in Minnesota,” Pointer said.

For more information about Lake Vermillion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park call 218-300-7000 or visit dnr.state.mn.us.

Article by Kristen Nichols