Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ready, set, camp!

New state park campground opens near Soudan

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 9/20/17

LAKE VERMILION—So far, so good. That’s the verdict from the opening week of the campground at Lake Vermilion Soudan Underground Mine State Park.

“It’s nice,” said Roger Cadwell, a White …

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Ready, set, camp!

New state park campground opens near Soudan

Posted

LAKE VERMILION—So far, so good. That’s the verdict from the opening week of the campground at Lake Vermilion Soudan Underground Mine State Park.

“It’s nice,” said Roger Cadwell, a White Bear Lake resident who arrived last Thursday to check out the new facility, built on a high ridge not far from Armstrong Bay.

Cadwell had visited a couple years ago when construction of the campground had just gotten underway. Now he was back to assess the final result. He liked the layout and said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the abundance of colorful maples already on full display at the park.

“We loved it. We loved it,” said Brenda Winkelaar, who spent three days at the campground with her husband Karel. The Winklears, who live in Tower, were the first official visitors to the new campground and said they plan to be back.

They’re both avid campers and Brenda said she liked everything about it. “The campsites are so spacious and there’s lots of privacy,” she said. “We’ve camped in many state park campgrounds over the years. This is definitely the elite campground in the system. The showers are beautiful and the wi-fi works great.”

While several of the 33 individual campsites and all three of the facility’s group camps remain closed to camping to allow new vegetation to get better established, the opening of the remaining sites went off almost entirely without a hitch.

“Campers just started rolling in,” said Assistant Park Manager Dawn Voges. “It went very smoothly,” she said.

Most of the visitors came with recreational vehicles or camper trailers, which Voges said isn’t unusual this time of year. “The retirement crowd tends to visit a lot more in the fall,” she said.

Each of the campsites at the park is designed to accommodate either tents or RVs, noted Voges, and comes with electrical service as well as wi-fi. Park planners had promised a park for the 21st century and the facilities have a more modern look, albeit one in keeping with a state park.

The facility has some other features that are unique to Lake Vermilion, at least so far. Among them is a complex lakewater treatment system as well as greywater recovery that allows the facility to minimize its use of water. The park was forced to construct the lakewater system when wells drilled at the site tested higher in naturally-occurring arsenic than health standards allow.

While the water system is complex, it’s been working as expected, according to Voges. “It’s amazing how little water is actually getting used,” she said. That may be because water from the facility’s showers and bathroom sinks is reclaimed for use flushing toilets. It probably also reflects the fact that RV campers tend to be more self-sufficient when it comes to showers and toilet facilities.

Voges said the reviews on the campground so far have been very favorable.

“People really seem to like the design and layout,” she said. Unlike some other state park campgrounds, where campsites in the past were often built on flat ground and quite close together, the new campground is built on rolling terrain and the campsites are widely separated, giving each site a significant degree of privacy.

It looks as though the campground, which experienced a handful of vacancies on its first evening, will get busier in the weeks to come. “Our reservation grid is pretty solid right now,” Voges.

Park activities

Because the new portion of the park is a work in progress, campers still don’t have the full range of activities available that they will in the future. “The walking trails aren’t in yet,” noted Cadwell. Actually, the park offers plenty of great hiking, but most of it is still part of, or accessed from, the Soudan Mine portion of the park. Eventually, campers will be able to access those trails directly, but for now most will likely utilize the Soudan side trails. Cadwell said he was headed there himself later in the day to explore the buildings around the former mine and check out the existing hiking trails.

And, of course, there’s another big reason besides hiking to visit the park— Lake Vermilion. Cadwell, who has never been on the big lake, agreed. “Next time I’m bringing my boat,” he said.

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