About three years ago while working at the "Forest History Center" (FHC) in Grand Rapids, MN, I heard talk of an old tree fire tower.(Photo to the right) It wasn't until the grand opening of the FHC fire tower I learned more about the tower. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) participated in the grand opening, with Forestry trucks and a water dropping helicopter. After the demonstrations, the helicopter pilot climbed my tower where I was the interpreter for the day and he told me of a platform type tower very high in a tree north of a town called Two Harbors. When I asked him if I could find it, he said it would be difficult because it was way out in the woods. I would have to get an airplane, and still it would be hard to find.

A year later another visitor climbed the FHC tower on a day that I happened to be working and he told me of somebody who talked about a tree fire tower north of Two Harbors and whether he could find his name and send it to me.

One month later I got an email from the visitor and he said the person was Todd Lindahl of Two Harbors. I called Todd and explained my interest in the tower and told him of the Forest Fire Lookout Association. Todd was happy to hear that someone was interested in the old tree fire tower, as Todd was a former DNR Forestry employee.

In the fall I met Todd at his house in Two Harbors. After some time talking about our mission for the day I took Todd to lunch before driving in his truck to find the site.

While at lunch I asked him "how do you know that this is an old fire tower and not a deer stand?" He said "how many deer stands have you ever seen forty feet up in the air?" "The tower is definitely not a deer stand. It is similar to the other fire towers of this type. The visibility form the hill top was I'm sure a big factor in selecting the site for this tower, plus it is strategically located as far as the railroad and the logging operations were concerned."
Todd new his history of the area well and he told me in about 1919, a private fire control organization came into being, called the "Wales Forest Protective Association". This unit was financed by several companies that had lumber operations and stands of timber in the area. They built and maintained lookout towers, telephone lines, and carried on all fire protection work with as many as 25 patrolmen working during the summer months. It was these men that built the tree platform fire tower, around 1921, that we were on our way to see.

After lunch we drove north from Two Harbors on Hwy 2 about twenty miles. Just before two RR tracks we turned east and went for one mile and turned north on "Stony River Rd." From there we drove to a clear cut logging area on the left side of the road and stopped; we were there. Todd was worried that the logger had cut down the fire tower tree. We had to walk about a half mile to the top of a ridge where the site was and we found it, still standing just twenty feet outside the logging line. The base of the white pine was about two and one half feet across, leading me to believe the tree was over one hundred years old. Where the tree splits in two directions, is about twenty feet above the ground. What would the total height have been seventy nine years ago? The tree would have been about twenty years old, perhaps thirty feet?

There were two platforms and a very old ladder nailed to the tree. We looked around on the ground for what ever we could find and came up with nothing. I took a few photographs and looked over the area, then headed back to Two Harbors. The site location for the GPS buff is: Lat. 47-25.13 Lon. 91-36.90......

After arriving at Todd's house he showed me his private museum of railroad artifacts. While there I spotted an old CCC pennant, (Civil Conversation Corps) and told him about a friend that had passed away and was going to send me his CCC pennant but didn't get around to it before he died. It was then I told Todd about my Minnesota Forestry patch collection and he asked me if I had one from the early 50's. I told him yes and sent the patch to him. A few days later I received the CCC pennant in the mail.

In an email, Todd told me the park manager at Gooseberry State Park mentioned to him that there was a wooden fire tower in the park. The manager said the remnants of the tower were still there, but it was laying on it's side. I will check this site out later this coming summer.

The web site now has a fairly compete list of all the MN fire towers that were and are still standing. This was compiled by Mike Magnor, Minnesota DNR Archeologist. This list Includes: State-Federal and Private Towers.

David Quam



Text Box: Story of the Minnesota "Tree Fire Tower"

Another type of “Tree” fire tower, a telephone pole.

1921 Minnesota Tree Fire Tower still standing.