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Chapter IX

St. Louis County:

The Iron Hills

State Highway 53 threads its way northward from Duluth. Driving along this highway, it is easy to imagine how the surrounding forests must have looked before the axe and the flame brought down the majestic pines and firs, replaced now by deciduous trees and hemlock and thick undergrowth of brush. After a long steady climb one reaches the divide: the waters on the northern slope flow into Canada and Hudson's Bay, those on the south into the Mississippi. On the horizon loom the bare, rust-brown uplands of the Mesabi.

Long ago those uplands were covered with magnificent forests, but during the centuries and the millenia the mountains eroded to leave behind them the heavy, iron-rich earth, the `red earth' whose iron content has proven to be the richest in the world. Then came the ice ages and the might of glaciers, forming the surface of the earth anew, and this red earth was buried, and over it grew once more a gigantic forest. A cross section cut into this earth shows how cleverly nature hid her riches : at times the lodes of ore run many feet under the earth, at times they seem to reach up to the roots of the grass cover. It has been but a scant century that this reserve of fantastic wealth has been known to man.

The Mesabi is much richer than the Cuyuna and Vermilion areas which have been discussed; it is the largest iron-laden area in the United States. It begins at Biwabik, some 60 miles north of Duluth or, in other words, in the geographical center of St. Louis County. It curls and twists in a narrow band by way of Virginia, Eveleth and Mountain Iron to Hibbing, and continues from there


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