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Great Lakes Road Trip Day 8 Part 2; 103 miles on MN 1 through the Iron Ranges

Leaving Voyageurs I decided that I didn't want to back track on US 53 to Duluth so I took MN 1 east towards MN 61.  MN 1 is the longest state highway in Minnesota at approximately 346 miles.







There isn't much on MN 1 until the junction with MN 169 which is multiplex through Ely to the east.






When MN 169 was created in 1934 it terminated the junction of MN 1 and MN 135 in Tower until was extended past Ely in 1953.



Tower was apparently incorporated in 1889 and was plotted out due to the nearby Soudan Mine.  Tower is still a city despite only having about 500 residents today.











Directly east of Tower is Soudan which apparently was named after the mine above the town.  The Soudan Mine is now a state park and was in operation from 1882 to 1962 when it was shut down by US Steel.  Originally the Soudan Mine was an open pit but was moved underground in 1900.  The state park offers tours of the underground portion of the Soudan Mine but I only had time to check out the above ground portions.



















I'm fairly certain MN 1 used to run on Main Street in Soudan.  There eastern end of the street seems to be cut-off intentionally from the modern bypass route.


MN 1/169 is being straightened and widened between Soudan and Ely.  Apparently this is due to icy conditions in the winter which have been a hazard, it is called the "Eagle's Nest Project" and a link can be found here:




http://www.dot.state.mn.us/d1/projects/Hwy169eagles/





Apparently settlers first arrived in Ely in the 1860s when iron was discovered in what is now known as the Iron Ranges.  Ely had rail service by 1888 and is still by far the largest inhabited place in the with about 3,400 residents today.  The big mine in the area was the Pioneer Mine which closed in 1967.






In the eastern end of the city of Ely MN 169 continues east for a couple miles before terminating on Sheridan Street while MN 1 uses 17th Avenue to exit the city and begin the southeast trek towards MN 61.


Interestingly it does appear there was a plan at some point to build a road east out of Ely to the Gun Flint Trail which would have connected to US 61.  There is no direct evidence to suggest that may have been a far flung plan for US 169 but it isn't hard not envision that was the idea.  North Star Highways has a photo of the unbuilt road in question at the following link.







Map of unbuilt roadway in the Iron Range east of Ely

Exiting Ely on MN 1 it is a 60 mile trek through the wilderness to MN 61 and the shores of Lake Superior.  Interestingly the guide sign still indicates US 61 and not MN 61.  US 61 was truncated back to Wyoming, MN in 1991 following the completion of I-35 through Duluth.





There isn't much trace of civilization between Ely and Isabella.  MN 1 is in bad shape and there are some pretty decent hills.  The elevation crossed over 2,000 feet above sea within the vicinity of Isabella.





The real hills are between Isabella and Finland.  The drop to Lake Superior had an 10% grade east of Finland before MN 1 terminates at MN 61.








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