Tucked in the heart of northeastern Minnesota, a mere hour and twenty minutes from the Duluth/Superior region, lies the little known vacationing gem of Biwabik, Minnesota. Ideally situated between the Superior National Forest, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, the Kabetogama State Forest and Koochiching State Forest, Biwabik is perfectly located for travelers seeking an opportunity to experience the beauty of the Minnesotan wilderness in a new and profound way. In addition to its ideal location, the community of Biwabik welcomes visitors with an abundance of Midwestern charm and grace. The Iron Range Interpretative Center, the Minnesota Museum of Mining, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and the Giants Ridge Ski and Golf Resort are all easily accessible from this quaint and historic community. If you and your family are looking for a new spot to vacation this year; a spot perfect no matter what the season, be sure to consider Biwabik. It will be a trip you will not soon forget.
Located in St. Louis County, Minnesota, Biwabik is home to approximately one thousand three hundred residents. While this number may sound small, its residents are extraordinarily welcoming to the travelers seeking respite from the pressures of the ordinary world and the numbers tend to swell in warmer summer months. Having been home to immigrants from countless home countries, the region is truly representative of America's melting pot; however, it was the Scandinavian and Finnish influences which had the greatest impact on the architecture of the Biwabik community. Quaint gift shops line the main street of this extraordinary town, beckoning visitors to come in and peruse various imported and handmade gift items. Small, local eateries such as Alden's restaurant feature good food at great prices. Best of all, out of towners will feel right at home amidst the boisterous and friendly locals of this community.
Biwabik is not only a present day vacationing paradise, it is also an integral part of the history of northeastern Minnesota. Located on the Mesabi Iron Range in the valley of the Embarrass River, Biwabik inherited its name from the Ojibwe Indian tribe who once roamed the surrounding lands hunting for meat and foraging for berries. Loosely translated, Biwabik means 'iron' or 'valuable' in the Ojibwe dialect and the town was likely named as a result of the rich iron ore mines of the surrounding region. Several Indian burial mounds have been discovered in the area which now encompasses Biwabik, indicating that this area may once have served as an Indian camping ground. European fur traders flocked to this region in the 19th century due to its wealth of furs, natural resources and the numerous waterways which helped make the terrain easy to traverse.
Around the time of the Civil War in 1865 and 1866, the area was inundated with gold hunters looking to cash in on the reputed gold fields of the Mesabi Iron Range and the Lake Vermilion district. The gold prospectors were succeeded by miners seeking the rich deposits of iron ore throughout the region, but Biwabik didn't emerge as true stronghold until 1891 when miners discovered a rich, high-grade blue ore in what was to become the Biwabik Mine. More ore was subsequently discovered in the Cincinnati, the Hale and the Kanawha mines, all located close to Biwabik, and plans for a town began to take shape. Biwabik itself was officially incorporated as a village in the fall of 1892. The village later re-incorporated, becoming an independent entity from the township of the same name later in 1893. Originally adjacent to the community of Merritt, Minnesota, Biwabik emerged as the center of civilization in the region when Merritt was nearly destroyed by fire. This fact, combined with the railroads' decision to run tracks through Biwabik instead of Merritt, ultimately served to ensure Biwabik's survival and Merritt's demise.
In the past, the community of Biwabik was largely supported by the mining industry. Miners moved to the region seeking jobs and the numerous mining facilities. Today, most of the mines have ceased operations, with the exception of the open pit Biwabik Mine. Farming has emerged as an economic powerhouse in the region and seed potatoes have become a staple crop here in northeastern Minnesota. The dairy industry has also moved to the Biwabik region as a result of the plentiful farmland and ideal climate conditions. Tourism has also provided an economic boost to the region, particularly in the warmer Minnesotan months of spring, summer and fall. With its rich historical heritage, the Mesabi Iron Range region boasts over thirty-five locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places, drawing visitors eager to experience the outstanding outdoor recreation and notable history of the Biwabik and the surrounding area.
Today, visitors can experience the unique culture and mining history of the Mesabi Iron Range through a variety of museums and interactive experiences. In nearby Tower, Minnesota, visitors can actually experience what it must have felt like to be a miner working in an underground mine as they take a half-mile trip below the surface of the Earth. While underground mines were more common during the early days of mining, most of the area's mines have been converted into 'open pit' mines. This difference can be experienced through a visit to the Hill Annex Mine State Park. Interpretative guides will help educate and entertain you throughout your visit. At the Minnesota Discovery Center located in Chisolm, Minnesota, your family can explore the rich history of this region brought to life by costumed interpreters and even a vintage trolley ride to a formerly operating mine. Interactive exhibits, spectacular mining views and even a miniature mining themed golf course complete the experience here. If you happen to be here in June, be sure to stop in for a visit to the Minnesota Discovery Center's annual Polkafest, celebrating the colorful culture which helped shape the Mesabi Iron Range region.
While mining is certainly important to the Mesabi Iron Range region, there are a variety of other historical aspects for your family to explore. The history and heritage of Native Americans should not be overlooked during a trip to the Biwabik area. The Bois Forte Heritage Center features the Atisokanigamig "Legend House," which offers a closer look at the Bois Forte Band of the Ojibwe Indians. Logging traditions and their importance to the development of northeastern Minnesota come to life at the Forest History Center in nearby Grand Rapids. Costumer interpreters and live animals demonstrate logging practices from yesteryear here at this extraordinary site which is sure to capture the imaginations and hearts of everyone in your traveling party.
For a glimpse into early Minnesotan domestic life, sites such as the Eli Wirtanen Farm bring the historic traditions of life on a Finnish farm to life. Featuring a self-guided tour, visitors to the 1904 Eli Wirtanen Farm can stroll through sixteen historic buildings including the main house, a shingle mill, a pig pen, hay shed and horse barn. The bath house of the Eli Wirtanen Farm is truly unique, featuring the only 'smoke hole' style of structure where smoke was released from the roof through holes rather than a more traditional chimney structure. The Eli Wiranen Farm is approximately twenty miles south of Biwabik. If the Eli Wiranen Farm peaks your interest, a fifteen mile guided audio tour through the Embarrass River Valley will offer you a unique perspective on the Finnish architecture of northern Minnesota in the early 20th century. The Nelimark Homestead Museum allows visitors to peruse through hand-crafted items including Finnish quilts, carvings and toys. On Kaleva Island, near Eveleth, Minnesota, be sure to check out the historic main lodge building and the traditional Finnish sauna dating back to 1929.
For aficionados of more modern history, musical legend Bob Dylan was raised in nearby Hibbing, Minnesota from the age of seven until his graduation from the historic Hibbing High School in 1959. He was born Robert Allen Zimmerman and while his childhood home located at 2425 'Dylan Drive' is not open for public tours, visitors can check out a copy of his senior yearbook at the Hibbing Public Library along with a small display dedicated to his life and work. Tours of his high school are also available where the piano he once played on is still used today. Every year in May, 'Dylan Days, a celebration of Bob Dylan's birthday and life's accomplishments is held in Hibbing, complete with a Mystery Bur Tour, live poetry readings and open microphone nights at area establishments.
Festivals and events are also a highlight of the Biwabik and Mesabi Iron Range experience. The annual Fourth of July festival in Biwabik features the area's largest parade and a breath-taking fireworks display. The Land of the Loon Arts and Crafts festival in nearby Virginia celebrates the diverse heritage of northeastern Minnesota every year in June, featuring delectable ethnic cuisine, artisan crafts, dancing and entertainment. In September, Biwabik itself hosts the Wirtanen Farm Days Fall Festival where visitors and locals alike can celebrate Finnish culture with dancers, performers, artisans and food. Giant Jam, an annual two day music festival, draws big crowds with some wonderful country and rock bands. Held annually around the third weekend in August, Giant Jam has hosted some terrific artists in its time. For the past eighteen year, Biwabik's Weihnachtsfest has been an annual Christmas tradition of the region. Held on the first Saturday in December, Weihnachtsfest celebrates the annual Christmas lighting, crowned by a magnificent fireworks display, live music and dancing. Craft tables featuring local artisans and handcrafted items of the Bavarian tradition are set up in the local church and the Bavarian-style City Hall building. The local youth present a children's musical beginning at 11:00 a.m. Horse drawn trolleys, tempting sweets from the Weihnachtsfest Candy House and polka complete the Weihnachtsfest experience. For traditional ethnic foods, be sure to try the hot meat pies commonly referred to as pasties, the Slavik potica, a walnutty sweet roll, and the sarmas, similar to the cabbage roll.
If you happen to be in the Biwabik area during a time when no festivals or events are scheduled, never fear. There are still countless ways to relax in and around the Biwabik area. Just one minute out of town, Embarrass Lake is home to a lovely beach and campground area. Fishermen will love the plentiful walleye, bass and perch to be found beneath the waters of Embarrass Lake. If fishing on a boat isn't your cup of tea, the fishing dock offers a great shoreline alternative. In the summer, the beach is patrolled by a lifeguard, making it a terrific spot for swimming and sun-bathing. Water-skiing and sand volleyball are also great activities along the shores of Embarrass Lake. Esquagama Lake is also nearby, also offering an array of aquatic sports and outdoor recreational opportunities. Thousands of miles of trails through the Minnesotan forests are easily accessible from the Biwabik region, making it a great spot for wildlife viewing and for teaching your children about the plants and fauna to be found in the old world forests of northeastern Minnesota. Relax on the lakes with water-skiing or inner-tubing. In winter, don't let the freezing temperatures deter you. The Biwabik region is home to some of the most outstanding skiing and snow-mobiling terrain of northeastern Minnesota. Be sure to plan an hour or two of the quintessential Minnesotan pastime of ice-fishing. The outdoor recreation is outstanding here in the Biwabik region.
No visit to Biwabik would be complete without a relaxing trip to the nearby Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort, home of world class skiing and championship golf. Each year, the Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort attracts leisure visitors from near and far with its outstanding golf and a wide array of luxurious accommodation options. Golfing in the summer, skiing and snowmobiling in the winter, this resort property is truly the ideal spot to experience the beauty that is northeastern Minnesota. The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame is a short drive from Biwabik. Young hockey players and fans will be delighted by the gigantic 107 foot tall, three ton hockey stick towering over nearby Eveleth, complete with a huge rubber puck. For a bit of culture, be sure to plan a visit to the Lyric Center for the Arts in downtown Virginia, a historic 1912 opera house providing artistic opportunities for the people of the Mesabi Iron Range region. For a true change of pace, plan a trip to the Olcott Park Greenhouse of Virginia, Minnesota. This gorgeous, tropical garden stands in defiance of the cold Minnesotan weather and provides local and visitors alike a chance to experience new and amazing forms of fauna and plant life.
Not only is Biwabik the ideal getaway destination, it is also a great spot for families looking to relocate to Minnesota. Home to great schools, a multitude of community parks and wide open land perfect for families looking to carve out their own utopic vision, Biwabik is small-town America, at its finest. The Biwabik community is the official home of the "Honk the Moose" statue, a statute dedicated to the iconic storybook character of the same name. People can stroll along the city's lighted walking trail or allow their children to play in the beautiful city park with a wonderful array of wildflowers and plants. In cooler winter months, the sliding hill and skating rink are the pride and joy of the Biwabik community, allowing folks to experience the joys of winter sports here in the Northwoods. Whether folks are looking for the perfect spot to experience their retirement, or just looking for a drastic and wonderful change of pace in their everyday lives, Biwabik is a great choice. With countless outdoor recreational opportunities and an extremely reasonable cost of living, Biwabik is also particularly attractive to young families looking for a great spot to raise their kids.
Whether you are looking for a unique and new vacation destination for a week or two next summer or a place to establish more permanent roots in northeastern Minnesota, Biwabik and the surrounding Mesabi Iron Range region is a truly amazing choice. Beautiful, but remote enough not to be overrun with countless tourists, this region offers so much to visitors and residents alike. Why wait? Experience the inspiration that is northeastern Minnesota. Plan your visit to this incredible region today!
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