Gilbert, MN

About Gilbert

Site of a scuba hot-spot in the clear-watered Lake Ore-Be-Gone, their another claim to fame at the edge-of-town is the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area (AKA The OHV Park).  The Mesabi Trail runs alongside the reclaimed mine lake and the popular Sherwood Forest Campground, headquarters for the annual ScubaPalooza and Ride for a Cure Jeep event. Don’t miss the huge July 4th parade, one of the best on the Range. Population 1,675.

Top Attractions

  • Lake Ore-be-gone, a former iron mine, is located within the city limits. It is popular for its swimming beach, pier, fishing and Sherwood Forest Campground. Scuba enthusiasts enjoy diving to see the mining relics abandoned when mining ceased.
  • The Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area is the best known OHV park in Minnesota with 36 miles (58 km) of trails covering 1,200 acres.
  • Gilbert City Hall has display cases with historical exhibits. Open during normal business hours.

History

Following the final retreat of glaciers from northeastern Minnesota approximately 10,000 years ago, native peoples migrated north and west. The Dakota people historically occupied the area. Lake Superior Chippewa (Ojibwe/Anishinaabe), the most populous tribe in North America, migrated westward and the Dakota moved west of the Mississippi in the seventeenth century. There were periods of peace and conflict between the two tribes, but the stream of European American settlers into their territories resulted in conflict. The U.S. Government ultimately removed both tribes from their native territories and put them on reservations.

Fur trading between native peoples and French explorers flourished from the 1660’s onward. The first major industry was the wholesale logging of the entire northeastern (‘arrowhead’) portion of the state. Mining followed logging.

Gilbert’s initial days began with the discovery of iron ore in 1891. A mining ‘location’ (settlement) in 1892 followed, which became the Village of Sparta in 1896—the same year ore began shipping from the Genoa Mine. In 1907-08, the Oliver Mining Company wanted to mine the ore under Sparta. It purchased the property from the residents, the village was dissolved, and the residents moved, sometimes moving entire buildings, one-half mile north to what would become Gilbert. (Gilbert was named after Giles Gilbert, one of the owners of the nearby mine that was also named after him.)

On April 7, 1908, residents of the proposed new town of Gilbert voted to incorporate. However, the incorporation was disputed by the Pitt Iron Company as too expansive. The matter went to the State Supreme Court, which sided with Pitt, operator of the La Belle mine. The residents of Gilbert scaled back their plans and on April 29, 1909, the incorporation of the Village of Gilbert was successful.

The new village was a divided town with two sides, the new Sparta ‘immigrants’ and the Gilbert residents. In 1910 things were so bad that residents of one end dared not even venture across the street to the ‘other’ end without protection.

Broadway, Gilbert’s principal business street, is one of the widest in the state, reflecting Gilbert’s ambition to be a major city on The Range and to accommodate the new horseless carriages (cars). The road was part of a twenty-eight-mile boardwalk connecting the eastern Mesabi Range towns. Early pictures of Gilbert show the Mesabi Electric Railway cars and tracks, part of a streetcar line connecting Gilbert to Hibbing.

In 1934, Camp Esquagama was founded as a 4-H Camp. It is now a summer camp. The St. Louis County 4-H Camp Lodge was built with the $10,000 National 4-H County Progress Prize offered by Sears, Roebuck, and Company. Nearly 300 counties in 29 states competed for the prize. The main lodge was worth over $2 million in 2010.

In the 1950’s, Gilbert High School had dominant basketball teams and won the state championship in 1951 with 6’11” Bill ‘Boots’ Simonovich and fellow All-Staters Tom Richardson and Andy Synder. Boots went on to star at the University of Minnesota.

As with other Range towns, Gilbert’s economic prosperity was linked to economic conditions nationwide, e.g. Prohibition, the Great Depression, WWI and WWII. After the repeal of Prohibition, there were dozens of ‘taverns,’ which prior to Prohibition were called ‘saloons.’

Gilbert expanded via annexation twice, in 1914 and again in 1975. Population in 2020 was 1,680.

Services

  • Two campgrounds
  • Several restaurants and establishments serve food
  • A gas/convenience store but no grocery store
  • Closest lodging is in Eveleth. More lodging is available in Virginia and Biwabik.

Events & Festivities

  • Fourth of July celebration
  • ScubaPalooza
  • Ride for a Cure Jeep event

 

Access Point(s)

Kansas Avenue & Ore-Be-Gone Drive
Gilbert, MN 55741

Parking available near the Mesabi Trail entry point kiosk and yellow archway at the entrance to Sherwood Forest Campground.

Gilbert Access Point Gilbert Access Point

Kansas Avenue & Ore-Be-Gone Drive
Gilbert, MN 55741

Parking available near the Mesabi Trail entry point kiosk and yellow archway at the entrance to Sherwood Forest Campground.

Gilbert Sherwood Forest Campground

301 Ore-Be-Gone Drive
Gilbert, MN 55741

218-748-2221

Website

In the heart of the Iron Range, all campsites offer a spectacular view of Lake Ore-Be-Gone, a huge mine pit lake spanning over 140 acres! A modern "mecca" for water skiers, fishermen, swimmers and divers. Come enjoy the hospitality and beauty, direct access to the Mesabi Trail.

The Blueberry Patch The Blueberry Patch

4493 Lilac Road
Gilbert, MN 55741

218-865-4100

Website

Located about 9 miles SE of the Mesabi Trail Gilbert access point. U-pick blueberry farm, berries are usually ripe in August. Contact for a Visit: Call 218-865-4100 for current picking availability.

Kunnari’s Pick-Your-Own Kunnari’s Pick-Your-Own

6650 Bodas Road
Gilbert, MN 55741

218-865-4732

Website

Located about 8 miles south of the Mesabi Trail McKinley access point. Pick-your-own strawberries. Contact to Visit: Call 218-865-4732 before coming out, as the season changes from year to year and picking conditions change daily. Kids are welcome, no pets please.

Iron Range Tourism Bureau Iron Range Tourism Bureau

111 Station 44 Road
Eveleth, MN 55734

218-749-8161

Website

The Iron Range Tourism Bureau serves multiple communities along the Mesabi Trail, including Hibbing, Chisholm, Mountain Iron, Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert, Biwabik, Aurora, Hoyt Lakes and Embarrass. Follow us on social media, and visit our website to find out about area events, attractions, lodging and trails.

West Forty RV Park & Campground

245 Minnesota 37
Gilbert, MN 55741

218-248-7362

Website

Located outside Gilbert with a connector trail that brings you right to the Mesabi Trail in just a few minutes. We offer the best camping value in Gilbert. Family-owned since 2004, we provide a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of open space so you can roam about. With 50 campsites for tents, campers/RVs or motor homes, we have something for everyone.

The Whistling Bird

101 No Broadway Ave
Gilbert, MN 55741

218-741-5030

Website

Enjoy a taste of the Caribbean on the Iron Range! Offering authentic Jamaican cooking along with traditional dishes with an island flair, and don't forget to check out our full bar featuring tasty island drinks.

Lakeland Store

4812 Vermilion Trail
Gilbert, MN 55741

218-865-6194

Gilbert Access Point

Kansas Avenue & Ore-Be-Gone Drive
Gilbert, MN 55741

Parking available near the Mesabi Trail entry point kiosk and yellow archway at the entrance to Sherwood Forest Campground.

Gilbert Access Point
Kunnari’s Pick-Your-Own

6650 Bodas Road
Gilbert, MN 55741

218-865-4732

Website

Located about 8 miles south of the Mesabi Trail McKinley access point. Pick-your-own strawberries. Contact to Visit: Call 218-865-4732 before coming out, as the season changes from year to year and picking conditions change daily. Kids are welcome, no pets please.

Kunnari’s Pick-Your-Own
The Blueberry Patch

4493 Lilac Road
Gilbert, MN 55741

218-865-4100

Website

Located about 9 miles SE of the Mesabi Trail Gilbert access point. U-pick blueberry farm, berries are usually ripe in August. Contact for a Visit: Call 218-865-4100 for current picking availability.

The Blueberry Patch
Iron Range Tourism Bureau

111 Station 44 Road
Eveleth, MN 55734

218-749-8161

Website

The Iron Range Tourism Bureau serves multiple communities along the Mesabi Trail, including Hibbing, Chisholm, Mountain Iron, Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert, Biwabik, Aurora, Hoyt Lakes and Embarrass. Follow us on social media, and visit our website to find out about area events, attractions, lodging and trails.

Iron Range Tourism Bureau
Lakeland Store

4812 Vermilion Trail
Gilbert, MN 55741

218-865-6194

Gilbert Sherwood Forest Campground

301 Ore-Be-Gone Drive
Gilbert, MN 55741

218-748-2221

Website

In the heart of the Iron Range, all campsites offer a spectacular view of Lake Ore-Be-Gone, a huge mine pit lake spanning over 140 acres! A modern "mecca" for water skiers, fishermen, swimmers and divers. Come enjoy the hospitality and beauty, direct access to the Mesabi Trail.

West Forty RV Park & Campground

245 Minnesota 37
Gilbert, MN 55741

218-248-7362

Website

Located outside Gilbert with a connector trail that brings you right to the Mesabi Trail in just a few minutes. We offer the best camping value in Gilbert. Family-owned since 2004, we provide a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of open space so you can roam about. With 50 campsites for tents, campers/RVs or motor homes, we have something for everyone.

The Whistling Bird

101 No Broadway Ave
Gilbert, MN 55741

218-741-5030

Website

Enjoy a taste of the Caribbean on the Iron Range! Offering authentic Jamaican cooking along with traditional dishes with an island flair, and don't forget to check out our full bar featuring tasty island drinks.

Funding Source

The Mesabi Trail™ has been funded in part by the LCCMR and the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund.