Over the years, citizens of Red Wing pondered ways to improve the Mdewakaton’s path to Barn Bluff’s summit. Charles Webster led an 1889 effort to carve an improved route into the bluff’s west face. Nineteen years later Red Wing business owners took time off from work to improve the trail they called “Webster’s Way.”
In the mid-1920s the city proposed a stairway that would allow easier access to the top. Red Wing Kiwanis Club members led a 1929 movement that produced a 450 step concrete stairway. High school students assumed the job of keeping the pathway clear. The easy-to-climb stairs became an immediate tourist attraction.
Bridge & Road Building Program
The stairway might still be there if the massive late-1950s bridge and road building program around Barn Bluff hadn’t shattered it. In 1983 another Kiwanis effort resulted in a new route to the bluff’s summit.
At the base of the steps on the south side of the bluff stands a plaque that reads in part: “The benches on either side of this section contain thirty five of the steps which were removed from the original Kiwanis stairway. One hundred fourteen steps still remain where they were placed initially on the upper west end of the bluff.”