Where towers once stood: Remembering Minnesota's majestic fire towers

  • Article by: Dennis Anderson , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2013 - 7:19 PM

Thousands of fire towers once presided over Minnesota’s treetops, especially in the North Country. Today only a fraction remain.

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ddellwoSep. 12, 13 6:36 PM

I remember scrambling to the top of one back in the '70's on a vacation at Itasca State Park -- I hadn't thought about them in many years!

davehougSep. 12, 13 9:17 PM

In 1983 I had just proposed to my wife at Itasca State Park, we then walked hand-in-hand and went up to the fire tower there. I found I could get the whole tower to sway a bit by shifting my weight. I also found my wife-to-be did NOT enjoy that :)

RankenFyleSep. 12, 1310:50 PM

I remember climbing a tower in the 60's near Willmar/Spicer and a year or two later in the Black Hills. The demise of the towers open to the public has left me with a greater appreciation of the Hermann monument in New Ulm.

jnjngirlzSep. 13, 13 7:39 AM

I wish the article contained a list of the fire towers that are still open and the public can climb. My family loves to climb them!

ThomasZSep. 13, 13 8:36 AM

One of the best towers in the state is in Elba, Mn in SE. Mn. Whitewater State Park. Over 600 wooden steps to the top of the bluff and then a knee shaking climb up the tower for a breathtaking view from the top. Not for those afraid of heights!

rapid55104Sep. 13, 1311:19 AM

Is the firetower on the Grand Portage reservation still accessible? That was a spectacular view, particularly in autumn when the sugar maples were blazing.

r2d2midgetSep. 13, 13 4:18 PM

To my knowledge they still have one at Many Point Scout camp as well!

MorgSep. 13, 13 9:48 PM

I agree it borders on criminal to write this story and not include a list of the towers still standing. So.....The one at Elba is open but requires a very strenuous 600+ step climb before you even get to the tower, but there are several benches to stop and rest. It is only an hour and a half or so away from the south metro and well worth a day trip. Between the tower height and the commanding perch above the valley it appears you are much higher than you are. The excellent trails at Whitewater State Park are only a few miles away to make it a day. The one in Itasca is also still open, and there is also one at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park for those on the north side of the Cities. Those are the only 3 I know of.

roughonratsSep. 13, 1310:05 PM

My uncle was a DNR officer in St Louis Cty, and one day in the late '60s, we took a "tour" of several towers. The views were magnificent, and were not lost on this teen. It was work getting up those stairs, but it was worth it.

loop80Sep. 14, 13 3:14 AM

Growing up in north-central MN, I climbed many, many fire towers. There were towers near where we camped, snowmobiled or went x-country skiing. They truly were all over the place in the north woods. Now, I'd be paralyzed trying to climb to those heights!

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