The Elba Fire Tower
Click on any of the the pictures on this page for a better view.

The Elba Fire Tower was constructed by the CCC in 1936 and is the farthest south of Minnesota's fire towers. No longer manned by the State Division of Forestry, the lookout is located on Division of Wildlife land immediately adjacent to Whitewater State Park, in Elba, Minnesota, high on a bluff overlooking the town. The 110-foot tower, with a 7- by 7-ft. cab, was transferred to the Division of State Parks for restoration and use as an interpretive site.

Over the last couple of years (since we discovered it), Mei-O and I have visited the site several times. Mei-O has actually climbed to the top of tower twice, while I've never made it past the second landing (fear of heights!) It's metal-frame is rickety and even the slightest wind makes the climb to the top nerve-racking. These pictures are from our April 8, 2006 visit.

Here's an August 23, 2011 article from the Rochester Post-Bulletin about the tower.

There are somewhere around 650 steps from the street level parking lot in Elba just to get to the top of the bluff on which the tower is situated. It's a fairly tough climb, with the steepness of the steps varying at different points along the way. There are only a few benches (two or three) where you can stop and rest along the way, but if you take your time, you can get there eventually.

Different times of the year make for totally different experiences, both winding through the forest on the climb up the steps to the top and at the top itself. We haven't done it in winter yet, but hope to some day. You get pretty hot and sweaty in the summer, so you'd better bring lots of water to drink.

Once you make it up the steps to the base of the tower, you get a breath-taking view of Elba and the surrounding countryside around this small rural Minnesota town (population around 270.) Obviously, the view from atop the 110 foot tower is even better, though I know I'll never get up there to see it (I'll take Mei-O's word!)

Behind the tower, there are some hiking trails, although not as extensive as one would like. It looks like there are actually a bunch of farm fields you can walk into (though I don't suppose you're supposed to, especially when they're planted with crops!) On this early spring visit, the fields were all clear and easily hike-able.

There's a way to drive up to the top of the bluff and park and walk to the tower, but we haven't checked it out yet. Besides, half the fun of visiting the tower is climbing the 600+ steps to the top, so I'm not sure we ever will!

So, if you have the stamina (for the climb to the top of the bluff to get to the tower) and the guts (to actually climb the tower!), a trip to the Elba Fire Tower is a great way to spend a spring, summer, or autumn day. (The autumn colors are spectacular if you can catch them at exactly the right time. We haven't tried winter yet.) Oh, and by the way, the climb back down the 600+ steps is a piece of cake!

Last Modified: September 22, 2018