Fri July 12, 2013

Connecting With Wildfires’ Low Tech Past

Two summers of high-profile wildfires are renewing interest in Colorado’s historic lookout towers. 

According to the U.S. Forest Service, three times as many people are volunteering to staff Deadman Lookout Tower this year in the Canyon Lakes Ranger District.

“Especially after the recent years of fires that we’ve been having locally, people really want to do something, they want to make a difference,” said Kristy Wumkes, U.S. Forest Service Partnerships Coordinator for the Canyon Lakes Ranger District.

In 2013, the all-volunteer staffed towers function as backcountry visitors centers. But historically there were dozens of fire lookout sites across Colorado staffed by full-time fire personnel. That practice changed in the 1970s when the role was transitioned to aircraft. But many sites remain.

A volunteer hikes to Deadman Lookout Tower near Red Feather Lakes.
Credit U.S. Forest Service

Each tower’s architecture looks different. Some have the appearance of a room on stilts like Deadman, which is named after the road on which it’s located. Others like Lookout Mountain had a ladder and a platform for one.

This former Castle Peak Lookout Site in White River National Forest capitalized on the natural topography. No stilts needed.

A picture of Castle Peak Lookout Tower from a distance.
Credit www.firetower.org

More pictures can be found at the National Historic Lookout Register and the Former Fire Lookout Sites Register.

While many have forgotten about the towers, the U.S. Forest Service staffs dozens across the country every year with volunteers.

Visiting hours for Deadman Tower are Thursdays through Mondays until the end of the summer.