Lisa Meyers McClintick, travel writer & photographer

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Minnesota adds Lake Vermilion as a state park

We had wonderful news in Minnesota last week. The state has finally negotiated a major land purchase along the shores of Lake Vermilion. It will be an amazing addition to the state park system.

What makes Lake Vermilion so attractive? For one thing, the new state park would connect to the existing Soudan Underground Mine State Park. It's literally and figuratively one of the coolest places to explore on a hot summer day.

Right: Lake Vermilion fun at Ludlow's Island Resort


Zip through underground mine tour
To experience this part of the Iron Range, you don a hard hat, cram into an elevator and plunge about a half-mile into the earth. Trust me, you'll get the kids attention with that. Pile into the cars that zip through the pitch-black tunnels, and they'll agree it's better than the fake mine ride at Disney's Magic Kingdom.

Interpretors spin great tales about the gritty life of miners, plus there's a gorgeous view from above ground. If you have a budding scientist in the family, there's also a High Energy Physics tour of the University of Minnesota's underground lab within the mine. It's a mind-boggling James Bond kind of experience as they study the universe's dark or missing matter.

The new state park, once developed, means visitors can camp nearby and have access to one of Minnesota's most impressive and beautiful lakes.

Above: Ready for the mine tour.
Right: Interpretive displays help visitors picture the mining life.

Ludlow's Lake Vermilion island
If you prefer a more luxurious stay than camping, Ludlow's Island Resort is the perfect northwoods splurge (not to mention one of the state's most unique resorts). Our kids were enchanted by using an antique crank telephone along the shore to summon one of their cheerful staffers--the kind of nice young college students your 8-year-old can't stop following around. He loaded up our gear into the vintage boat and headed to the island. It was too early in the year for swimming, but we adored the setting.

Plus there's something about an island that removes you that much more from reality and all the usual responsibilities you flee when on vacation. And the lake views? Stunning, of course.

How thrilling it is to know everyone will be able to enjoy this lovely lake real soon. Watch for day-use openings later this year and camp sites in the years to come.

If you want more inspiration for worthy state parks, check out the June/July issue of Midwest Living. I was one of many writers who helped find the best of the best. I had no idea Fort Snelling--a beloved living history site--also had a great beach tucked away near the river.

Above: Boating back and forth between Lake Vermilion's shore and Ludlow's island.