Fire Lookouts

[Symbol]: heritage resources[Symbol]: interpretive

"Fire lookouts-in a blaze of summer heat or covered with snow, what more romantic image of solitude is the second only to Smokey Bear, fire lookouts have become one of the Forest Service's most widely recognized icons. In the 1940s, there were close to 4,000 fire towers in National Forests across the United States. Now there are fewer than 900 computerized lightning detection systems and air patrols have taken over much of the role of lookouts in detecting and locating wildfires.ome fire lookouts are still staffed, because they offer views not covered by other systems for the most part, they are a dying breed."Jill Osborn, PIT Traveler.

The Stanislaus National Forest had 24 lookout sites at one time. Most had a lifespan of many decades. Some were single-purposed and short-lived. Some were not developed. All had stories to tell. If you have stories to tell or photographs to share about a Stanislaus National Forest fire lookout, please contact one of the Heritage Staff. We'd love to hear from you.

Brief histories of the Stanislaus National Forest fire lookouts are shown below. Select each photo for a larger image.

[Photo and link to larger image] American Camp:Mi-Wok Ranger District, 3,405' elevation.his lookout was built in 1930 by the California Division of Forestry (CDF) and operated until 1969. The lookout consists of a 7' x 7' steel observation cab atop a 60' steel tower.he lookout was built for primary observation on State lands and secondary observation of Forest Service lands.t is managed as a standing ruin today and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Photo back:  "89-9, 30".
[Photo and link to larger image] Blue Mountain:Calaveras Ranger District, 6,071' elevation.he Forest Service leased 1 acre of property on Blue Mountain in 1914 for the purpose of a fire lookout and supply station.riginally established prior to 1908, the first permanent lookout was built in 1911 from wood from the first Calaveras Ranger Station.he Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built the second lookout in 1934. DF now operates the lookout.
[Photo and link to larger image] Crandall Peak:Mi-Wok Ranger District, 5,449' elevation. Civilian Conservation Corps crew from Camp Jupiter built this lookout in 1934.t was used until the mid-1980s and then burned down in 1989.he lookout consisted of a 40' three-tiered wood frame building.he bottom floor was 15' x 15'', with a standard 14' x 14' second floor and cab.he original lookout was constructed of horizontal redwood siding and painted white. Photo back:  "Crandall Peak Lookout 8-26-53".
[Photo and link to larger image] Darby Knob:Calaveras Ranger District, 3,692' elevation.o other information available. Photo back: "Darby Knob heliograph lookout station near Calaveras Station.Note telephone at top of tower, heliograph on ground, horse & shovel ready for fire duty." Photo:  by J. T. Jardine, 1914.
Photo not available Devil's Nose:Calaveras Ranger District, 4,802' elevation. No information available.
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Duckwall: Mi-Wok Ranger District, 5,835' elevation. CCC crew built this lookout in 1935.he lookout consists of a 7' x 7' steel observation cab atop a 100' steel tower.t replaced a shorter steel tower with wooden observation cabin. BC-2 residence is located adjacent to the tower.The original wooden residence burned down in a wildland fire and was replaced by a BC-2 cinder block building in the same location in 1951.he lookout and residence are still in use today and the lookout is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.his tower and Woods Ridge are the two tallest lookouts in California. Photo:  1966.

[Photo and link to larger image] Folsom:Calaveras Ranger District, 4,855' elevation.This was probably a cooperative lookout with the State of California. No other information available. Photo:  1937.
Photo not available Forebay:  Mi-Wok Ranger District, 2,800' elevation. This lookout was constructed for a single purpose:  to report on fires resulting from construction of the forebay and replacement of the flume system with tunnel and pipe above the Camp 9 Powerhouse. It was in operation for a short duration during construction.t is no longer standing.  No other information available.
[Photo and link to larger image] Jones Point:Groveland Ranger District, 3,698' elevation.ittle information is known about this lookout. It was built in 1936. Photo:  1964.
Photo not available Liberty Hill:Calaveras Ranger District, 7,537' elevation. No information available.
Photo not available Manzanita Point:Calaveras Ranger District, 4,000' elevation. No other information available.
Photo not available McCormick:Calaveras Ranger District, 4,210' elevation.his lookout was probably built around 1935. No other information available.
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Mt. Elizabeth:Mi-Wok Ranger District, 4,939' were two historic lookout towers on Mt. Elizabeth.he original tower, in existence at least by 1925, was a "windmill type" tower 60' high with a flat, unroofed was also a small cabin nearby.he second historic lookout, constructed in 1931, consisted of a 7' x 7' cab atop a steel tower. wooden residence was located adjacent to the tower.he historic lookout no longer exists and has been replaced by a live-in cab atop a 40' steel tower with a catwalk.t. Elizabeth is still used today as a fire lookout. Back of lookout photo (top):  "Ola Zimmerman Collection, Mt. Elizabeth Old Tower, 1931". Back of residence photo (bottom):  "Ola Zimmerman Collection, Lawrence Crandall (L) & Frank Zimmerman @ Mt. Elizabeth, Sept. 1931, Harry Crow/Lookout, Exp 29".
[Photo and link to larger image] Mt. Reba:Calaveras Ranger District, 8,420' elevation.his lookout was in use until the early 1970s.  No other information available. Photo back:  "Fire detection; 8/12/69, Mt. Reba, Portable L.O., Trailer, photo by BDL".
[Photo and link to larger image] North Mountain:5,754' elevation.Originally a "crow's nest" lookout on top of a Redwood tree, this lookout commands views of the Groveland Ranger District and Yosemite National Park.he second tower was built in 1940 and was 30' high.he current North Mountain tower and garage were built in 1963.he tower is 54' tall with a 13' x 13' live-in cab constructed of steel.he garage burned down in the 1996 Ackerson Fire.hoto back:"N. Mtn. Lookout, 8-18-55".
[Photo and link to larger image] Pilot Peak:Groveland Ranger District, 6,004' elevation.orest maps show a lookout on Pilot Peak as early as 1909.he current tower was erected in 1963, replacing earlier versions.Pilot Peak is staffed every fire season, as it commands a view across most of the Groveland District, into Yosemite National Park and the Sierra National Forest. Photo:  April 1961.
[Photo and link to larger image] Pinecrest Peak:Summit Ranger District, 8,440' elevation.his lookout was originally built as a National Defense Observation Tower during World War II.t was manned from 1939-1973. It is no longer standing.  Photo back: "Pinecrest Peak Lookout 1935. Bill Johnson/Lookout, Ola Zimmerman collection".
Photo not available Slash Disposal:Calaveras Ranger District, 4,656' elevation.This lookout was built as a result of the 1923 Cow Creek Sale.Located on the west side of the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River, it was built for observation of ~3,800 acres as part of an experiment to determine the feasibility of leaving slash to decompose naturally after a timber sale under intensive fire protection.The sale was under contract to the Standard Lumber Company.The lookout was in use from 1923-1935.  It is no longer standing.
[Photo and link to larger image] Smith Peak:Groveland Ranger District, 3,877' elevation.y 1910, Smith Peak, two miles from the Groveland Ranger Station, was used as a fire lookout.mith Peak was selected as an administrative site in 1931, and soon after a wooden lookout tower was built.n 1952, a metal lookout tower was constructed, along with a garage.he tower burned down in the 1987 Stanislaus Complex Fire, and was replaced in 1988.mith Peak is used every summer as one of the two staffed fire lookouts on the Groveland District. Photo: 1943.
Photo not available Sugarloaf:Mi-Wok Ranger District, 3,880' elevation.orty acres were withdrawn for this lookout location on March 9, 1931.he lookout was constructed in 1932.t is no longer standing.  No other information available.
Photo not available Thompson Peak:  Mi-Wok Ranger District, 5,294' elevation.  Not much is known of this lookout. History files in the Supervisor's Office of the Stanislaus National Forest revealed a note about a monument erected listing a date of 1937.  There are no physical remains.
[Photo and link to larger image] Trumbull Peak:  Groveland Ranger District, 4,853' elevation. Trumbull Peak lookout  tower was erected in 1934 and the residence was built in 1935 by the CCC.he tower is 45' tall, and the Aeromotor windmill company designed the 7' x 7' cab. The residence and tower command views of the Merced River Canyon and Yosemite Valley.he tower was last staffed regularly in the 1970s. Photo:no date.
Photo not available Wet Meadow Hill:Mi-Wok Ranger District, 3,850' elevation. It is no longer standing.  No other information available.
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Woods Ridge:Groveland Ranger District, 5,999' elevation.he CCC built Woods Ridge Lookout in 1939.he tower is 100 feet tall with a 7-foot square observation cab.he Aeromotor Company designed both the cab and tower.he steel lookout replaced a treetop lookout built by the Forest Service in 1913 as a crow's nest at the top of a 100' yellow pine that had been donated by the West Side Lumber Co.A residence and garage are at the lookout site.oods Ridge has not been staffed since the 1970s.Along with Duckwall, this is one of the two tallest lookouts in California. Photo (top):ookout in top of tree, 1938, by Les Cuff. Photo (bottom):  Lookout cabin, 1943.



Stanislaus Heritage