For your captivating view of the day, check out this video posted by Curtis Lahr of a scuba dive under the Tioga Mine Pit near Grand Rapids, Minnesota on the western Mesabi Iron Range.
There’s an old rumor that there’s a train engine at the bottom of the Tioga. This dive doesn’t show them going all the way to the bottom, so I guess we still don’t know. But there is a rifle perched on old mine equipment rigging, and that’s a pretty cool, if creepy, throwback to another time in Iron Range history.
Note the clarity of the water. The water that backfills into the pits after companies stop pumping them out is pure ground water. When the light is right you can see way, way down into these pits. My friend Carolyn King has swam most of the pits of the Iron Range, including several that are, let’s just say, difficult to reach. She’ll tell you these pits are clear, cool and clean. (No, ex-mines are not free of pollution, but the pollution is found where there’s runoff on waste rock, generally not in pits like these.)
A number of developments either have or plan to develop “lakeshore” properties on these old reclaimed pits. The views are unique, boasting the distinct colors of the Iron Range: sky blue, dull reddish brown and faded green. The only downside is a drop-off of about half a mile a few feet out from your dock.