Say hello to Minnesota's newest state park

The campground at Lake Vermilion State Park opens Tuesday
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Tuesday is opening day at Minnesota's newest state park. 

The campground at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park will start accepting visitors just in time for the fall color season

The 33 sites are equipped with wi-fi access and electricity, the DNR says. Hot showers and flush toilets are available, too, until they get turned off for the season later in the fall.

The mine has actually been a state park for a long time, but the Lake Vermilion property – more than 3,000 acres of rugged landscape – was acquired in 2010 and the state's been working on turning it into a park since then. You can see snapshots of the scenery here or take a panoramic tour.

Reserve a spot

If you wanted to use the new Lake Vermilion campground as the base for your fall color tour, you might already be too late. 

Reservations opened just last week. You can check the availability here but the park's assistant manager tells the Duluth News Tribune some of the fall weekends are already booked up and next summer is going fast, too. 

Developing the campground took more time and money ($7 million) than expected largely because of the rugged terrain, the News Tribune reports. "This is a tough place to build anything," assistant manager Dawn Voges told the paper. "What isn't rock ridge is swamp." 

Even so, the DNR has future plans for adding more trails and expanding the campground, which includes three sites for groups of up to 50 people each. 

There's already a trail connecting the Lake Vermilion area with Soudan Underground Mine. It was Minnesota's first iron mine back in 1882 and tours continue daily through September and weekends through October. 

State parks are drawing record crowds 

It seems like a good time to open Minnesota's first new park in 25 years, because the ones we have are getting visited by more people than ever. 

The DNR says the state parks had 10 million visitors last year, which was a record for the 125-year-old system. 

Managing those crowds and keeping the parks in top shape for them has been a growing challenge for the state. That's one of the reasons some park fees went up on July 1.

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Construction under way in Ely on Minnesota's newest state park

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said construction has begun at Lake Vermillion State Park in Ely, which the DNR described as a "next-generation" park. The DNR hopes to introduce more young families to the outdoors with the new park, which will have will have children's treehouses and an adventure trail with a ropes course.