Green Mountain Lookout

Green Mountain Lookout in 1971 in need of repairThe Green Mountain Lookout is located in the western portion of the 573,000-acre Glacier Peak Wilderness near Darrington, Wash. The Civilian Conservation Corps built it in 1933 as part of a fire detection system in the North Cascade Mountains. The lookout served in this role into the 1980s. As aerial fire detection became more prevalent, fire staffing was gradually replaced by wilderness ranger staffing. The spectacular view and relatively easy four-mile-long trail to the summit has made it a popular destination for Northwest hikers for decades. One of a few lookouts still used by the US Forest Service as an administrative site, the lookout building is locked and unavailable for public use.

The severe winters at this exposed 6,500 foot mountaintop have put the building and its foundation to the test. The building was closed to the public in the mid-1990s due to a hazardous catwalk and a failing foundation of loose rock.

A number of lookouts and cabins had been present within and around northwest forest Wildernesses in the 1960s and 1970s. These structures began to be eliminated due to weathering, fewer resources to maintain them, and abandonment. People became concerned these structures and heritage would be lost. As a result of increasing public interest, in 1987 Green Mountain and five other Wilderness lookouts on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest were listed on the National Register of Historic Places to ensure their future protection.

Green Lookout in 2010 after repair workForest planning efforts also recognized these unique structures, and the 1990 the Forest Plan established direction to maintain and preserve them. The 1964 Wilderness Act states that any structure can only be allowed to the extent that is the minimum necessary for the administration of the wilderness. However, the 1984 Washington Wilderness Act also seeks to:

“ … promote, perpetuate, and preserve the wilderness character of the lands, protect watersheds and wildlife habitat, preserve scenic and historic resources, and promote scientific research, primitive recreation, solitude, physical and mental challenge and inspiration for the benefit of all the American people to a greater extent than is possible in the absence of wilderness designation.”

In this spirit of preserving historic structures, since 1984 the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has engaged in cooperative efforts to maintain its wilderness lookouts: Winchester Mountain, Park Butte, Three Fingers, Miners Ridge, Evergreen Mountain, Granite Mountain and Green Mountain. While each lookout has required considerable work to repair windows, roofs and foundations, the Green Mountain Lookout was in the most dire condition. The Forest Service began to rehabilitate the lookout in 1998 to rehabilitate the lookout. The project received wide public support, Washington State historic preservation concurrence, and grant funding. Work began in 1999.

The first repair effort in 2000 failed due to inadequate design for snow loading. At risk of losing the structure, the lookout had to be disassembled and removed from the mountaintop. Each piece was numbered and then removed by helicopter for repairs in Darrington, Wash., so the pieces could be returned and re-assembled to re-create the previous lookout atop Green Mountain.

In 2003 and 2006, major winter storms washed out roads and creek crossings, making access to the trailhead a 12-mile hiking venture on undriveable roads. Access finally improved enough that the lookout foundation could be repaired in 2009. The lookout pieces were then flown back by helicopter and re-assembled on the mountaintop. Today, some interior finishing work and other details remain to complete the lookout rehabilitation.

Green Mountain Lookout Chronology

This chronology summarizes key events in the 77-year history of the Green Mountain Lookout on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. 
1933 - Original L-4 style lookout built for fire detection.
1950 - Extensive repairs made after severe winter damage in 1949-1950. New roof walls repaired, windows, shutters and door repaired and re-installed. Catwalk added to three sides of building.
1955 - Original shutters replaced with plywood shutters.
1955 – 1965 - Catwalk expanded around front of lookout; entry stair moved to center of catwalk.
1964 - Wilderness Act signed. Green Mountain not included within the original Glacier Peak wilderness.
1960s - Wire mesh added to the catwalk railing.
1968 - North Cascades National Park Act expands Glacier Peak Wilderness to include the point of Green Mountain on which the lookout sits.
1970s - Plywood shutters from 1955 replaced with new plywood shutters. 
1984 - Lower slopes of Green Mountain, including the rest of the lookout site, added to the Glacier Peak Wilderness as part of the Washington Wilderness Act. Senate Committee Report accompanying the legislation directs agency to allow continued maintenance of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie lookouts covered in that legislation: Three Fingers, Park Butte and Winchester Mountain.
1984  - Catwalk and supports rebuilt with new material.
Mid-1980s - Use of the lookout for fire detection gradually ends. Forest begins staffing lookout with wilderness rangers because of increasing use of the Green Mountain area.
1987 - Green Mountain is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with five other forest lookouts.
1988-1991 - New shutters installed using original architectural details and original hinges. 
1990 - Memorandum of Understanding with the Friends of Green Mountain is signed by the forest supervisor for the “preservation and maintenance” of the lookout.
1990 - Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest Plan signed, which includes Green Mountain, along with other wilderness lookouts, to a special wilderness allocation that accepts the nonconforming use. Forest Service concludes that all lookouts in the forest’s wildernesses should be managed in the same manner. 
1990 - 150 deck boards and 30 railing boards used to repair catwalk deck and railing. Lookout jacked up and shimmed to adjust for shifting foundation rocks. 
1990 - Major flooding in November, 1990, washes out the Suiattle Road, requiring a 12-mile journey to the trailhead, use of the area drops to near zero, lookout not staffed.
1991 - Green Mountain Lookout is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register.
1991 - Repairs to railing damaged by winter snowload. Part of catwalk blocked off for public safety. 
1992 - Old roof removed, new roof installed.
1994 - Suiattle Road repaired and road access to Green Mountain trailhead restored. Wilderness Ranger staffing re-established.
1995 - Lookout closed to the public due to unsafe foundation, handrails and catwalk. Administrative staffing of the lookout ends due to reduced funding.
1996 - State Historic Preservation Office concurs that repairs will have “no adverse effect” on the historic lookout.
1998 - Green Mountain Lookout Repair Decision Memo signed Sept. 28, 1998, by forest supervisor. Repairs include: support beams replacement, support posts, catwalk, railings, roof connections, exterior siding and cable anchor system. All salvageable materials and “in kind” material to be used in the repairs. Use of helicopter and motorized rock drill permitted.
1999 - Forest awarded $50,000 restoration grant from the White House Millennium Council’s “Saving America’s Treasures” program. 
1999-2000 - Foundation stabilization, catwalk repaired and other repair work done. 
2000 - Passport in Time project installs new southwest corner post in lookout building. 
2001 - Passport in Time project reglazes some windows and paints lookout.
2002 - Heavy snowfall in winter 2001-2002 damages the new foundation, which could not support snowloading at the site, requiring lookout to be removed from foundation for repair. Temporary removal of lookout is authorized by forest supervisor after consultation with the Washington State Historic Preservation Officer. Lookout disassembled, each piece numbered and systematically removed by helicopter.
2003 (and 2006) - Major flooding on the Suiattle River in 2003 and 2006 limits road access to the trailhead.
2003-2008 - Volunteers contributes several hundred hours of work on the lookout. 
2005 - A Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office NOVA grant for $50,000 awarded for repair of the lookout. 
     • Lookout foundation repaired by National Park Service crew working under NOVA grant in July, 
     • Lookout pieces flown by helicopter back to the mountaintop in August and lookout reassembled, 
     • Roof framing uses 75 percent of the 1950s framing with some new material for strength, 
     • 60 percent of original shiplap roofing material used, 
     • 75 percent of original exterior siding used, 
     • 1988 shutters reattached, 
     • New knee walls built, 
     • Catwalk rebuilt with new material.
2010 - 75 percent of original interior drop siding, flooring and beadboard ceiling, original firefinder, table, chairs and cabinet to be installed.