The Civilian Conservation Corps, Camp F-23 of Company 927, built the observatory from lava rock during the Great Depression. It is named after Dee Wright, the foreman in charge of the Camp. Since its completion in 1935, the observatory has been a favorite attraction for thousands of visitors each summer. Interpretive panels, located on the paved trail to the observatory, tell the story of early travelers and area geology. A restroom and the trail to the structure are accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.
The Lava River Interpretive Trail is located next to the observatory, offering an unusual half-mile hike through young lava flows on a paved trail. The viewing windows inside the structure are referred to as "lava tube" viewing holes. Through these windows visitors can view and identify several of the Cascade Mountain peaks. A bronze "peak finder" is located at the top of the structure.