Learn the history of the area and the mine lakes when you come to enjoy Cuyuna Adventure Town USA™ and ride the mountain bike trails at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.
The present Cuyuna region is a former Iron Range between Brainerd and Aitkin that was discovered by Cuyler Adams—a surveyor who discovered traces of magnetic ore while surveying land in 1895. The word “Cuyuna” was created by Adams’ wife—the first three letters of Cuyler and “Una,” their St. Bernard’s name. Mining began on the Cuyuna Range in 1911 and continued until 1984.
The Milford Mine north of Crosby is living history of Minnesota’s worst mining disaster. On February 5, 1924, at 3:45 (15 minutes before their shift ended) Foley Lake broke into the Milford Mine and flooded the 200-foot shaft, where 48 miners had been working at the 165 and 175-foot levels. Seven miners scrambled up the ladder to the surface, but 41 miners perished. Sirens at the mines and in neighboring towns, as well as train whistles, sounded continually. Despite the efforts of the mining companies to pump the mud and water, the last body wasn’t recovered until November.
The Milford Mine site in Crosby has been opened as a meaningful, historic memorial. A boardwalk over the water leads to the shaft—the cap on the mine shaft is still visible—and boards in the boardwalk are inscribed with the names of those who perished. At the memorial, you’ll be able to learn about the miners and their authentic, world-renowned Cuyuna grit. The foundations of their homes are still visible and reveal the close proximity of their homes to the shaft.
Amenities include interpretive signs and memorial wall, kiosks, trails, picnic shelter, vault toilet, grills, and a canoe launch platform.
The Milford Mine Memorial is open from sunrise to sunset.
To learn more, visit: crowwing.us/294/Milford-Mine-Memorial-Park
If you’ve wondered what underground mining looked like, here’s one of the best ways to experience it for yourself. A visit to the Croft Mine Historical Park is well worth your time when visiting Cuyuna.
This 17-acre park was built on the Croft Mine site, which mined ore from 1916–1934. The original shaft was 630 feet deep and mined 1,770,000 tons over its total production. The park has a guided, simulated underground mining tour and mining artifacts in the museum. Many of the artifacts and relics share the same names as the Cuyuna mountain bike trails we have come to love—mining units such as Sagamore, Yawkey, Portsmouth, and Pennington. When history comes alive, it makes your next cycle around the red dirt even more powerful. And don’t miss the largest chunk of copper in Minnesota’s mining history. It was found near Sagamore and you can see it in the museum—it’s big and it’s cool.
The park entrance shares the trailhead parking for the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area bike paths, which allows easy access. Amenities include vault toilets, but no modern facilities.
Open from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
To learn more, visit: crosbymn.govoffice3.com and click “Tourism.”
The Soo Line Depot was built in 1910 and is now home to the Soo Line Depot Museum. It has more history per square foot than the Smithsonian—you may also see a community icon such as Mama Cuyuna in person while visiting the museum. The museum displays artifacts, photos, and documents of life and events on the Cuyuna Iron Range. From logging to mining, Miners Hospital or Crosby-Ironton High School yearbooks—if you want to know more about Cuyuna and Crosby, and the men and women who founded it, you’ll learn more here.
And if you love history, this is where you can pick up the three-book series of Cuyuna Country history books and the now-famous Cuyuna’s Gourmet Grub with authentic recipes that define the original spice of real Cuyuna food.
The museum is open from Memorial Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, Tuesday through Saturday, 10a–4p. Tours are available.
You’ll also find a replica of the Man High II manned space capsule at the Soo Line Depot Museum (the original space capsule is at the Smithsonian Institute). A monument to the Project Man High II event is also found at the Portsmouth Mine Overlook.
In August 1957, Dr. David Simons entered a small capsule that was loaded on a truck in St. Paul, which then drove to Crosby. The capsule was attached to a giant balloon at Portsmouth Mine where Man High II began its flight into the stratosphere.
When Portsmouth was active (no water in the mine pit), the balloon had to start rising lower than surface level so the wind did not push the balloon to the ground. (Residents who saw the large balloon ascending thought it was a weather balloon.) The pit basically provided a running headstart for the balloon. And, as Portsmouth is Minnesota’s deepest inland lake at 450 feet now that it is filled with water, they chose wisely.
From the time Dr. Simons entered the capsule in St. Paul to the time it landed, he was in the capsule for 44 hours. (The time spent in flight was 32 hours.) The balloon and capsule reached an altitude of 110,000 feet, allowing Dr. Simons to gather data on altitude’s effects on the body—valuable information used by NASA in space flights. According to NASA, the contribution of Cuyuna, Crosby, Portsmouth, and Man High II was the precursor to the NASA space program. They helped start it! We helped start it!
After enjoying the history of Man High II, head over to Cuyuna Brewing for a cold, Man High Stout.