Red Wing, MN
Located about 40 miles south of Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN in the Mississippi river valley. It is quite hilly in the area with most bluffs topping out around 300′ above the valley floor. Red Wing is a quaint little town with several antique shops and an 18-mile beautiful paved bike trail. It is very popular with bikers and skaters on the weekends.
The hill I like to fly is called “Barns Bluff” and is located right on the north end of town. It is approximately a mile long and tops out at 300′ according to my Cateye Altimeter bike computer. The hill is 90% open on the south face and requires a South to Southwest wind from 12mph to stay aloft. The bluff is very steep and even has some rock ledges you want to stay away from unless you’re rock climbing. The North side of the bluff is even steeper but completely covered with trees. If it were open, this would be one heck of a Dynamic Soaring site as the top comes to a very sharp point.
Directions: To get to the site take 5th street to the north end of town where it’ll eventually end up at an overhead bridge for hwy 61. You can usually find many places to park at the end of 5th street as the bluff is city property and is used by many rock climbers and hikers. It is about a 20-minute walk so grab as many airplanes as you can carry. Go up the stairs and stay to the left. The trail starts off very gradual but eventually starts to rise steeper and steeper. After walking a bit, you will hit a flight of stairs that’s a reminder of some of Red Wings past history. Names of people who supported building the stairway are listed on each step. Once you get to the top of the stairs, you can take a left and continue walking to the west end or you can even stay to the right, which will put you right in the middle of the bluff. I like the west side as the downtown gives off huge honking thermals along with super slope lift. Landing zones are pretty good but biggest plane I flew there was 100′ Sagitta. Because of the trees behind you, you have to land on the slope face which is similar to Mirko’s technique of flying out from the hill into sink then turn around where you land straight up the hill and flare at the last second or sideways into the tall grass.
I wouldn’t recommend this hill to beginners but anyone who can keep the model out in front of the hill and keep it from getting behind you, should check it out. Some don’t like walking that far, but you walk just as far when your thermal flying and stretching out your hi-start or setting up your winch. I personally love the walk and the view from the top is one of the best I’ve ever seen. From the top, you’ll hear occasional church bells, police sirens and even get chased by some falcons that just want to come out and play. Even Bald Eagles fly by every once in a while and maybe you’ll see a full size sailplane pass overhead.
This is another site that’s almost as good and you can’t, or don’t want to, walk. You can drive on a nice steep paved road all the way to the top. It has a nice overlook, bathrooms and a nice big grassy field where you can hi-start your models. Slope flying is on the south side also like Barns Bluff but I’ve also sloped the west side while sitting on the edge of the overlook. That was with an electric because there’s trees all around with no place to land if you run out of lift, you have to able to power up over the trees and land behind in the big grassy field behind you.
These are locations we have had the privilege to fly. Some may have access restrictions.
Check with local flyers for information.