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The best little underground state park in Minnesota

Soudan, MN, USA
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I had been trying to see the Tower-Soudan Mine for over 20 years, but had never managed to get there in time for the last tour of the day. Finally made it while looking for a good way to spend a rainy day on a Minnesota Iron Range bike trip. This mine, one of the few underground mines in Minnesota, operated from 1900-1962. Since the mine is carved into what is basically a mountain of iron, the mining chambers don't collapse like old coal mines. So when they stopped mining, they just built a visitor center at the top and turned it into a state park.

The underground tour is a surreal experience, starting with a slow, creaking ride almost a half-mile straight down in a 100-year-old miners' cage. The tour guides are locals whose grandfathers rode this elevator every day, and they are obviously proud to tell tourists the story of their mine. I now know why iron mining is so much safer than coal mining (except for the hearing loss), why the mine bosses made a point of integrating the mining teams, and why they shut this place down with untold tons of high-grade ore still left in it.

But the most amazing thing was how much the inside of a 100-year-old iron mine looks like a modern first person shooter. There is even a top-secret physics lab down there on the 27th level (just like Black Mesa). No, I am not making that up! The view from the ore car looks exactly like the point where I quit playing Half Life 1 because I couldn't find my way out of the endless miles of mining tunnel. Too dark down there for pictures, but back on the surface, the old buildings full of over-sized steampunk equipment and giant spanner wrenches looked great in the rain.
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Soudan Underground Mine State Park
A great way to spend a rainy afternoon, or a nice 2-hour break if you happen to be driving to Ely. Tours are $12/adult, $7/kids. Probably too spooky for little ones, but older kids will love riding the mine hoist and the ore car.

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1 Comment

by tumbleweed_farm

01-19-2014

"Physics lab" - neutrinos?