The natural river above Hastings was treacherous for steamboats, with a depth that reached only three and one-half feet in some places. The first efforts of the federal government to improve navigation of the river were wing dams (piles of rock and brush) to direct the river's flow, and closing dams that constricted alternate water channels, thereby scouring a deeper river bottom.
Finally, in the late 1920s, in order to create a nine-foot navigable channel, the federal government began constructing a system of locks and dams along the Mississippi.
Lighting the Way
Wing dams posed a potential danger to boats. Lighting them enabled those traveling along the river to avoid hitting them accidentally.
Members of the Bloomstrand family lit the navigation lamps on the wing dams buoys for 39 years. John Edward Bloomstrand began lighting the buoys in 1895. His wife, Hedda Daniel Bloomstrand, and their children, Walt Bloomstrand and Lillian Bloomstrand Wilson, also held the job until 1934.
Steps to the Sea
The United States Army Corps of Engineers completed construction on Lock and Dam #2, just upstream of Hastings, in 1930. The dam is the second in a system of 29 locks and dams on the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Louis.
By the mid 1940s, the walls of the lock, over 600 feet long, had settled and tilted. A second lock was built in 1948 to replace the original.
The City of Hastings now has a power plant on the dam, generating electricity by water flow.