Explore the Ancient Secrets of Lake Vermilion
Thick forests, old-growth trees, rocky and sandy shorelines, wildlife, fishing, and beautiful waters draw visitors to Lake Vermilion’s shores year after year. While Lake Vermilion offers serene resorts and remote campgrounds, the area remains largely undeveloped, providing a unique wilderness escape and preserving the incredible history of the land.
The Ojibway named the lake “Onamuni,” meaning the “Lake of the Sunset Glows.” Once French explorers arrived in the mid-1600s, they translated the Ojibway name to “Vermilion,” a Latin word for a color ranging from yellow to red.
Names that certainly still ring true with incredible sunsets glowing over Lake Vermilion each evening.
The Soudan Underground Mine
Lake Vermilion’s beauty is only one feature that attracted Native Peoples and explorers to this spot. The Soudan Underground Mine State Park reveals a pivotal part of the area’s history; the mine was rich with iron ore. The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, who called the land home centuries before loggers and miners arrived, shared iron ore samples with the US government in the 1860s.
By 1882, miners started to dig in an open mine pit before moving underground, marking the beginning of Minnesota’s “Iron Range.” The Soudan Mine is the oldest and deepest mine in the state, operational for decades until it closed in 1962.
The mine is now a beautiful state park with 30,000 – 35,000 tourists visiting each year. You can still tour one of the mine’s shafts and learn more about the fascinating geology in the area. The bedrock in the Lake Vermilion area was created through historic volcanic and glacial activity. You can truly step back in time, exploring stunning rock outcrops that date back more than 2.7 billion years ago.
Archaeological digs in the Lake Vermilion area uncovered incredible discoveries that provide better insight into the Ojibwe. Obsidian stone artifacts were found, which they used for better spears and arrowheads. And newly discovered rock quarries show the Ojibwe dug up and harvested chert for use as projectile points with artifacts dating back 5,000 to 7,000 years ago.
Lake Vermilion’s ancient rocky shoreline borders 135-year-old old-growth pine forests, aspen and birch, and mesic hardwood forests. The boulder-strewn shores provide shallow bays that offer a diverse supply of fish, including walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, bluegills, crappies, and largemouth bass - a fisher's delight.
Wildlife & Flora
The natural landscape also offers a sanctuary for extensive wildlife and flora. Three rare plant species are protected in the area:
Woodsia Alpinais found in the cliff areas.
Dragon’s Mouth Orchids in forested bogs.
Small Water Crowfoot grow near ponds and streams.
Keep an eye out for gray wolves, lynxes, bald eagles, black bears, deer, bats, and so many more that call the 39,271 acres of Lake Vermilion home.
Stretching 37 miles with 341 miles of shoreline and 365 islands, Lake Vermilion is one of the state’s largest lakes and offers endless recreation and a beautiful, ancient landscape for us to explore in every season.