Minneapolis / Saint Paul / Twin Cities urban exploration

 Gopher Munitions Plant
 (aka "The U-Lands")

During World War II, the Federal Government acquired 13,000 acres of farmland in Rosemount, displacing 90 families in 1942. Construction of the Gopher Ordnance Works (a munitions plant) on said farmland began in May of 1942 by E.I. Dupont deNemours and Company.

Twenty thousand workers and 856 new buildings were part of the project at a cost of $123,855,448. Operations of the war munitions plant, which was never fully functioning, ceased in April of 1945 when the war ended.

At that time 8,000 acres of the land were obtained by the University of Minnesota and a number of the buildings were used during the 1947-48 polio outbreak. Currently, the University of Minnesota’s Agricultural Research Station and the Dakota County Technical College are located on part of the site.

(from the City of Rosemount's homepage)

     (photo of the munition plant stacks in operation)

Click the small pics for larger images and more
detailed information.


Long before there was Action Squad, long before the emergence of Max Action, my friends and I sometimes drove out to explore the "U-lands," as they were called. I didn't own a camera back then, and we have no pictures of these circa 1993 trips to put up on the site. So the years rolled past, and I almost forgot all about the place. Shit, I hardly remember anything about being sixteen.

Anyway, after we'd been doing Action Squads for a couple of years, MuppySkum (an original Action Squad member and one the people that explored the U-Lands with me when we were kids) suggested that we go out there sometime. Memories of the place came rushing back as we talked, and it was decided that we'd go back in the spring (it was winter at the time) and try to rediscover the ruins we'd explored years ago.


Well, spring came and went, quickly followed by summer and fall. By the time the U-Lands crossed my mind again it was already the next winter. Blah blah blah, to make a long story short, we kept not going out there until one day we actually stopped not going out there, and went.

We took multiple trips throughout 2001 and early 2002; each time we went, we found new places to explore. Now, for the most part, this is not a hardcore kind of place. Yes, there are a couple different tunnel systems, as well as abandoned buildings (it's not all in total ruins). And yes, we did spend a good deal of effort dodging both the Rosemount police and a private security patrol. But for the most part, a trip to the U-Lands means an afternoon of romping around, climbing around on stuff, taking cool pictures, wandering through the woods, and having a good time in a visually and historically interesting environment with a somehow haunting atmosphere.

The U-Lands are quite different from other abandoned places we have explored: they're "ruins" in the truest sense of the word, having more in common with the weathered remains of an ancient city than they do with any of the other abandoned places we know of. Most of the buildings are at least partially gone, leaving foundations, basements, and jagged chunks of walls to be slowly broken down and devoured by nature. Strange concrete structures lurk almost invisible in groves of trees, 20th century Midwestern versions of the inscrutable and eerie vine-choked temples in the rain forests of Peru. Utility tunnels beneath the surface choke silently as they slowly fill up with dirt and debris washed in by rain and snow melt. Trees spring up in defiance of mankind on rooftops, in the middle of fields of cracked cement, and in places that were once considered to be indoors.
O   O   O OO   O  

The U-Lands are a wonderful and beautiful place, if you've got the right way of looking at the world. Of course, most people don't see things this way; there are plans being considered to raze both the ruins themselves and the surrounding forest to make way for yet another fucking golf course.

A golf course.  *sigh*

Is that really progress?

O   O    O   O   O   O   


Dave's U-Land's Page  -  Dave contacted us about his explorations of the U-Lands back in October of 2001;
                                             his site is ALL about the U-Lands, and includes a "virtual tour." Very cool.

Ryan's U-Land Page  -  Ryan's site mainly takes a more historical approach; he has dug up quite a bit
                                         of interesting info on the history of the Gopher Munition Plant.

"U Ponders Rosemount Land Options"  -  An article from a November 1998 issue of the Minnesota Daily.

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