Experience Iron Range Living Mining History!
Iron mining has shaped northern Minnesota for over 100 years. It is a vital part of the Iron Range communities. The Iron Range supplies 80% of the country’s taconite, which is used in the steelmaking process.
Mining has created amazing vistas and unique Mineland Reclamation recreation and other tourist hot spots. Take in the views and learn about Iron Range history, past and present! You can enjoy and appreciate these areas on foot, bike, or on a drive. Watch a mining operation or marvel at a stunning view.
Hull Rust Mahoning Mine View in Hibbing, MN
View one of the world’s largest open pit mines from the Hull Rust Mahoning Mine View in Hibbing. You’ll glimpse two-story haul trucks, super-sized electric shovels and more as they operate in Hibbing Taconite’s mining operations. Kids will enjoy climbing on mining equipment and shopping at the small gift store. This site is open May-September, when friendly volunteers answer questions and point out what’s happening within the mine. Still want to see it? Take a virtual tour.
Finntown Overlook & Park near Virginia, MN
Finntown Overlook is part of a Virginia City Park and a trailhead with parking for the Mesabi Bicycle Trail. It is open year round with free admission.
Walk through a 50-foot caged safety bridge out into the midst of the historic Rouchleau group of mines. The mining canyon is nearly three miles long, a half-mile wide and 450 feet deep. The view includes towering rock-cropped walls with various red hues stretching across the entire open pit mine.
The Rouchleau Group of mines began as underground shafts, when other mines honey-combed the earth a few hundred feet below the surface, eventually joining underground. This group of mines produced more than 300 million gross tons of iron ore within the Virginia district. Ten mining companies were involved in the Rouchleau in open pit mining at one time or another, with the last shipments made in 1977.
Leonidas Overlook near Eveleth, MN
At Leonidas Overlook, see former mines as well as current mining activity at United Taconite from the area’s largest man-made point. Your view extends 15 miles and includes the Laurentian Divide (a northern divide indicating where waters either flow to the Arctic Ocean, or the Atlantic),visible as a range of hills to your northeast.
Leonidas Overlook is open spring, summer and fall. The entrance road is not plowed.
Bridge View Park Virginia, MN
View the Tom Rukavina Memorial Bridge spanning a former, water-filled iron mine in Virginia.
If you’re unable to walk to the Tom Rukavina Memorial Bridge, a shorter walk to Bridge View Park is one way to see the amazing structure as it crosses Rouchleau Mine Pit in Virginia.
Less than one mile from the Mesabi Trail Head at the east end of Chestnut Street, the park offers interpretive information about the building of the bridge, a raised elevation from which to view the bridge, and several benches.
This site is a must-stop as a great outdoor museum with informative signage about the mining process and area history. A locomotive and other mining equipment onsite makes for a great photo op. There is a picnic area plus a view of US Steel mining (you are not likely to see active mining here, unless at a distance. Bring binoculars!)
Reclamation — It’s What Happens When the Digging is Done!
What’s often surprising about the Iron Range is the extent of mine reclamation that’s taken place. Reclamation — reforesting, wetland re-creation, mine pits filling with groundwater — these things happen all the time. Managed by the mining companies and regulators (dewatering an area for mining and moving the water into an existing wetland, watershed or pit for example), or by Mineland Reclamation – a division of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board – or by nature’s hand, change doesn’t end with mining. And much of the time, reclamation ends up looking pretty amazing.
Holes in the ground fill with clear spring water and game fish are introduced. A boat launch, a beach, a campground are added. Loons start nesting and because the water is so clear, you can see them hunting far beneath your boat. Exploring “pit lakes” in a boat, canoe or kayak is fascinating. Between the ability to see deep into the lake (but certainly not to the bottom, 200+ feet away), and the rocky walls that tower above, it’s a memorable experience in itself.
In some cases, reclamation has been done by developers including the OHV recreation area in Gilbert, and Giants Ridge Golf & Ski Resort. The Mesabi Trail makes use of scenic views of reclaimed mine land from one end of the Range to the other, as does the Minnesota Discovery Center. Lake Ore-Be-Gone, in Gilbert, is a popular site for divers.
See for yourself. Visit the Iron Range and get to know an area that has been influencing the national economy for a hundred years. Get to know the people who love the outdoors as much if not more than anyone in the country. See an Iron Range that supports industry and wildlife, that extracts and preserves natural resources, and produces both the raw material for steel production while sustaining a way of life that many would envy.