A Landing a Day

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Tower, Minnesota

Posted by graywacke on February 26, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now more or less an every-third-day blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Dan –  After three USers in a row, I couldn’t stretch it to four, thanks to this OSer landing in . . . MN; 72/55; 5/10; 2; 154.4.  Here’s my regional landing map, showing that I landed in the “Arrowhead” region of MN:

 tower landing 1

A much-closer-in landing map, shows this intriguing location – in Vermilion (only one “l”) Lake, near Duffy Island:

 tower landing 2

Zooming out a little more, and we can see that Vermilion Lake is quite large, and the town of Tower is nearby (and that’s the town of Soudan just east of Tower, unaccountably not labeled on the map):

 tower landing 3

You can see that I landed on an arm of the Lake, which is known as Pike Bay, because the Pike River flows into it.

Now, it may be a bit of a stretch to say I landed in the Pike River watershed, but what the heck – I’m sure that the pre-glacial Pike River had a hand in creating what is now Pike Bay.  So I’ll go out on a limb and claim the Pike River watershed (making it my first landing there).

Check out this even-more-zoomed-out landing map, which shows the Vermilion River exiting the lake to the north:

tower landing 4 vermilion r

This is my second hit for the Vermilion; on to the Echo River (also 2nd hit); on to the Rainy (8th hit); and on to the Nelson (61st hit).  As I’m sure you know (but may have forgotten), the Nelson flows all the way up and over to Hudson Bay.  In and amongst these rivers is a sea of lakes known as the Boundary Waters.  Check out this yet-even-more-zoomed-out landing map, showing the awesome array of lakes stretching way up into Ontario:

tower landing 5 Boundary waters

My Google Earth (GE) shot shows that I landed pretty damn close to a motorboat – the white blur just south of my landing – it’s only about 135 feet away.  I wonder if they noticed the huge yellow push pin?

 tower GE1 boat 135 ft from landing

Looking way back up at my landing map, you can see County Road 77 along the western shore of Pike Bay.  Here’s a GE StreetView shot from there, looking out towards my landing:

 tower GE2 streetview from west end - landing in far distance

To put things in perspective, here’s a zoomed out GE shot that shows that Vermilion Lake is about 23 miles long, west to east:

 tower GE3

Think there’s a little geologic control of the southwest edge of the lake?  A straight line like that has to be due to some linear geologic feature . . .

About Tower, from Wiki:

Tower  (pop 500) owes its establishment to the Soudan Mine, and was named after mining financier Charlemagne Tower.  It is the home of the McKinley Monument, the first erected in honor of former U.S. President William McKinley shortly after his assassination in 1901.

Tower set the Minnesota record for coldest temperature on February 2, 1996, when the temperature dropped to -60°F. This was the lowest temperature ever recorded in the United States east of the Great Plains.  Tower is the coldest inhabited location in the Lower 48 states, based on average winter temperature.

Speaking of cold, here’s a frigid-looking picture of the McKinley Monument, taken in 1909 (from lakesnwoods.com):

TowerG16

Moving on to Vermilion Lake, from Wiki:

The Ojibwe originally called the lake Onamuni, which means “Lake of the Sunset Glow”.  [Great name the Ojibwe came up with!]   French fur traders translated this to the word Vermilion, which is derived from a Latin word for red pigment. Vermilion Lake is at the northern fringe of the Mesabi Iron Range.

The color vermilion is also known as cinnabar, because the pigment was originally derived from the mineral cinnabar.  Here’s a picture of the mineral from Wiki:

tower - cinnabar

And here’s the color (according to Wiki):

tower - vermilion

Anyway, here’s a screen shot of the homepage of the LakeVermilion.com website:

 vermilion lake home page

The fine print contains the claim that in the 1940s, the National Geographic Society declared Lake Vermilion one of the ten most scenic lakes in the U.S.  Well, here’s what pesky Wiki has to say about that:

The claim that “in the 1940s, the National Geographic Society declared Lake Vermilion one of the top ten most scenic lakes in the United States” has been rebutted by a representative of the National Geographic Society who wrote:

“There are no references in our files indicating that National Geographic magazine has said Lake Vermilion is one of the worlds [sic] most beautiful lakes. We are asked from time to time whether the National Geographic Society has ever rated lakes and sunsets as to beauty or towns as to climate. It has not generally been our policy to do so, since personal opinion plays so large a part in determining such things.”

 Take that, Lake Vermilion!  But what the heck – for what it’s worth, A Landing A Day will be happy to go on record saying that Lake Vermilion is one of the ten most scenic lakes in the country!  Just don’t ask me to name the other nine . . .

 Anyway, we’re in a mining region, with the Soudan mine mentioned as the reason for Tower’s existence.  The Village of Soudan is just east of Tower.  About Soudan, from Wiki:

The mine (and the village) obtained its name from D. H. Bacon, the general manager of the mine.  Bacon said that the severely cold winters are a strong contrast with the tropical heat of the Soudan (or Sudan) region in Africa.

 So, Mr. Bacon thought that it’d be a good joke on everybody to name the mine (located in one of the coldest places in the United States) after equatorial Africa!  What a great sense of humor!

 A little more about the Soudan Mine (which is now a very cool underground museum).  From Wiki:

In the late 19th century, prospectors searching for gold in northern Minnesota discovered extremely rich veins of hematite at this site, often containing more than 65% iron.  By 1912 the mine was at a depth of 1,250 feet.  When the mine closed, level 27 was being developed at 2,341 feet below the surface. In 1965, US Steel donated the Soudan Mine to the State of Minnesota to use for educational purposes.

[Check out the mining method, which is a great way to go:]

The primary underground mining method used was known as cut and fill.  While the ore contains rich hematite, most of the rock surrounding the small hematite bodies is known as greenstone.  Cut and fill involved mining the ceiling and using greenstone and other waste rock to artificially raise the floor at the same rate as the ceiling was being mined out. As a result the floor and ceiling were always 10–20 feet apart, and waste rock never had to be hauled to the surface. This technique was particularly suited to the Soudan Mine due to the strength of the hematite formations and the weakness of the encasing greenstone.

Here’s a shot from level 27, approximately 2,300 feet down in the mine (from Wiki):

tower - Mine tunnel form northern ill univ

I’ll close with a vermilion sunset view of Vermilion Lake (from Wiki):

 KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

That’ll do it.

 KS

 Greg

 

© 2013 A Landing A Day

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