While traveling on a road trip through the state of Minnesota, my family and I stopped at the Soudan Underground Mine State Park in Soudan, Minnesota. I had read about the Soudan Mine tour in our AAA travel guide, but I had no idea that not only would it be a great historical tourist attraction, but also a thrilling adventure ride too!
The Soudan Mine began operating in 1882. It was Minnesota’s first iron ore mine. The mine’s high oxygen ore was used to make high-quality steel. In 1892 operations went underground and by 1962, when the Soudan Mine closed, it was a half mile underground.
The tour began with a ten minute introduction which prepares visitors for what they are about to experience. Unfortunately we arrived late, so we missed this introduction. But we did find out that our tour guide had a long family history of working in the mine.
After the introduction we were guided into a room to select our hard hats. Since I had missed the introduction, and all of the safety precautions, I thought the hard hats were simply a way to make the tour seem more authentic. I figured they would look great in the family vacation photos. Little did I know that those hard hats were actually for our own safety.
Next we were guided into a “cage” for our descent into the mine. It wasn’t exactly the nice modern elevator I had been expecting. Instead it was the actual mine hoist that miners had used to enter the mine. Let me just say I have a hard time on a normal elevator, so this cage was pushing my anxiety levels up a bit.
The inside of the cage was very dark and cramped. The only light came from the guide’s flashlight which she aimed at the tiny little window in the cage door. Through the window we could see that we were descending deep into the Earth. Claustrophobics be aware, this can really send you into an anxiety attack!
When we finally reached the 27th floor, which is about a half mile underground, we boarded a rail car that took us on a 3/4 mile ride into the deepest area of the mine. The rail cars were pretty cool, they reminded me of the Scooby Doo episode when Shaggy and Scooby get lost in the mines.
Next we went up a spiral staircase into a large open space. The guide told us about the different jobs of the miners and explained what it was like to work in the dark mines. To give us a feel for what it was like for the miners, the guide turned off all of the lights. You haven’t seen dark until you’ve been a half mile underground with no lights.
When the tour was over we headed back up in our cage. The idea of going up was much easier for me to handle than going down.
The Soudan Mine also offers a Physics Lab Tour. This high-tech underground science and engineering laboratory is used by scientists from all over the world. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to take this tour, but I would recommend trying it if you have time.
Visitors can walk through the engine house, crusher house, drill shop, and the dry house. You can also see one of the deepest open mine pits.
I highly recommend stopping at the Soudan Underground Mine. Not only does it provide valuable historical information about miners and Minnesota history, it is also provides a fun adventure ride deep into the Earth.
Things to consider when taking the Soudan Underground Mine Tour
The temperature inside the mine is only 50 degrees, so be sure to wear a sweatshirt or jacket. No bags or strollers are allowed underground. Do not go on the tour if you, or your children, are claustrophobic or afraid of the dark. If you have young children make sure they can handle the entire 90-minute tour since there’s no turning back once you get down there. Keep in mind that I didn’t see any restrooms once we went down in the cage. There are some narrow staircases to climb. The tours are ADA accessible, call for details. State Park Vehicle permits are not required to visit the park.
How to get to the Soudan Underground Mine
Take US Highway 169 toward Ely and follow the signs. Soudan is located two miles east of Tower, Minnesota.
For more information visit: Soudan Underground Mine State Park