Washington County Historical Society/Mikey Foley
Washington County Historical Society/getty
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Here in St. George Utah, you may have noticed these strange, flat, billboard-like structures up on the hills. But what on earth are they?!

For example there’s one near Dixie rock (Pioneer Park) and another next to the big “D” on the hill.

But what on earth are these panel things for?  What do they do? I thought this many times while hiking or driving past them, and I had a few ideas of what they could be.  Spoiler alert:  none of my assumptions were correct.

My first thought was they were probably put there as a drive-in movie long ago.

Washington County Historical Society
Washington County Historical Society
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They were not.

Then I thought perhaps they were put there as advertisements.

getty
getty
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Wrong again. 

What about solar panels? 

getty
getty
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Nope. They are not solar panels either.

The answer to what these are used for predates solar panels by quite a few years.

These structures are actually telephone microwave reflector panels. They were installed most likely in the 60s or 70s, and their purpose has everything to do with TELEPHONES.

Totally normal teenagers doing totally normal things.
Totally normal teenagers doing totally normal things.
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Many years ago, telephone calls began to be transmitted through the air using microwaves. No, not microwave OVENS, that’s crazy talk.  Although we all have that one Uncle who receives messages from space aliens through his kitchen appliances.

we all have that one uncle. -giphy
we all have that one uncle. -giphy
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But I digress.

Here's How It Works.

The telephone signals are transmitted from a place like this telecommunications building in downtown St. George.

google maps
google maps
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Unfortunately, because St. George has so many hills, those signals are easily stopped by the surrounding rocks.

this is what happens to microwaves when they hit a mountain (giphy)
this is what happens to microwaves when they hit a mountain (giphy)
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So instead of just hitting the walls over and over, these panels act as a reflector, shooting the signals around the obstacles and into other receivers.

Washington County Historical Society
Washington County Historical Society
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It transmits telephone data to a first reflector upon Dixie Hill.

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These signals are then relayed over to a second panel up next to the D...

attachment-11
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and then the signal is transmitted out to other areas such as Colorado city and Apple Valley.

getty
getty
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This technology is largely outdated, and its unclear how often they are still being used.

"C'mon Linda just turn around and notice I'm alive..." (WCHS)
"C'mon Linda just turn around and notice I'm alive..." (WCHS)
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But now you know what they were/are used for, and it's a fun fact to bring up to your date when you're just about to make out on top of Dixie Rock.

And now you know.
And now you know.
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