Indian Mounds Park "Airway" Beacon
Last Update: July 9, 1999
| Its beam flashes across the sky every five
seconds, 720 times an hour. The light is visible for miles and has
been guiding planes to safety for 70 years. The Mounds Park
beacon, or as it is formally named, the Indian Mounds Park "Airway"
Beacon, has been a landmark in Dayton's Bluff since 1929.
At one time over 600 of these beacons defined
nighttime airway corridors across America. The Mounds Park beacon was part
of the system that defined the route between St. Paul and Chicago. But
electronic guidance equipment eventually made the beacons obsolete and,
just like their lighthouse counterparts, most of them eventually
went dark. Our beacon is the last of its kind.
It was a marvel in its time and is still
impressive by today's standards. The tower is 110 feet tall.
The beacon itself is 24 inches in diameter.
photo by Joe Cosimini
||An early (circa 1939) black and white photo of the beacon.
photo by Greg Cosimini
| It was designed by the City of St. Paul's
Bureau of Bridges and built by the St. Paul Structural Steel Co.
During a refurbishing in 1994-95, the tower's original black and
chrome-yellow color scheme was restored, replacing the red and white colors
that had graced the tower in modern times. The mid-90s
restoration was accomplished through a coalition of groups including the
Metropolitan Airports Commission, the FAA, the State Historic Preservation
Office, the Indian Affairs Council, the State Archeologist and the City
of St. Paul.
The beacon has been an attraction
ever since it was built. At least three postcards, probably issued
in the 1930s, featured the beacon, showing Indian burial mounds in
the foreground with the St. Paul skyline in the background.
Besides guiding airplanes, our beacon also
welcomes trains, boats and, of course, weary automobile commuters as they
return to Dayton's Bluff from the far reaches of the Twin Cities in the
dark of night.
|The beacon's red and white colors against the blue sky made
for a nice Bicentennial display in this photograph taken on July
| Observing the beacon is also a very
good way to determine prevailing weather conditions. As the
beacon sweeps clockwise through the atmosphere, its beam can appear
nearly invisible, extremely bright or anything in between, depending
on what is in the atmosphere that night.
The beacon's most spectacular display
can only be seen a couple of times a year. Watch its beam when the
temperature is near zero and there is an ice fog in the air.
As the beacon rotates a hazy glow will be seen in the sky until the beam
is pointing directly towards your position. Suddenly, a brilliant
shaft of light will appear to shoot straight up into the sky and disappear
just as quickly, only to appear five seconds later when the beacon swings
No matter what the sky conditions, Dayton's
Bluff 's own Old Faithful will be there, lighting up the sky every five
seconds for years to come just as it has for the past 70 years.
And just to make sure the beacon looks its
best, it received a new coat of paint in June 1999.
photo by Greg Cosimini
||The beacon had been restored to its original black and
chrome-yellow color scheme by the time this picture was taken on
April 13, 1997. People are looking at the flooded Mississippi River
down below the Bluffs.