Old Oregon Lookout Towers-- Mt. McLoughlin

I cover Mt. McLoughlin on this page, with information and links about other notable places. Note: on older maps McLoughlin was called "Mt. Pitt." The lookout perched on the very highest point, at a lofty 9,500 feet elevation, some 2,000 feet above timberline! The picture above shows the native stone bottom of the old lookout on November 30, 1966. The winds were blowing from the northwest at 50+ mph, flattening my big down parka against my back -- all just a taste of the destructive power that ultimately reduced even the stone part of the lookout tower to nothingness.

Let's begin with the original lookout, erected in 1917, this old black and white image is from 1920.

Now let's jump ahead forty-four years to the 1964 color photo below. During the intervening time, the wooden beauty above had been destroyed by the tumultuous summit winds and replaced in 1929 by a more sturdy version with a native stone foundation. But after 35 years, even that has been decimated.

And by 1976, after another twelve years of harsh mountain weather, more decay has ensued, and now the wooden floor we stood on in 1964 has vanished, leaving only a stone shell, usually chock-full of snow even in summer. Color image below taken by me in 1976.

Final image taken by me in 2000, showing the near-total demise of this classy lookout.

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Expanded content: The High Cascades weather at nearly 10,000 feet has not been kind to the Mt. Pitt fire lookout buildings! In 1929, there was a beautiful wood-structure with classy 360-degree windows... It rooted itself to the summit via the durable native rock foundation seen in the 1976 image. Previous to 1929, a quaint two-story all-wood lookout had clung to the wind-blasted summit since 1917 (see image at page top from Dave Bula's collection). That wooden beauty was replaced by the more bullet-proof version in 1929 due to the ferocious summit winds... The lookout building, like many of the other early lookouts placed atop Oregon's highest peaks, proved to be a bad idea, frequently unusable due to being either above the clouds or within the clouds, thus making for poor viewing conditions for the persons within trying to spot distant fires at much lower elevations!...History buffs will note that in those early days, the peak was named Mt. Pitt. Nowadays, you'll find it named Mt. McLoughlin on the maps, after Dr. John McLoughlin, one of Oregon's most well-known pioneer statesmen. McLoughlin's pointy peak is Oregon's most southerly major Cascades volcano.

In the image from 2000 (see above), we are perched high in the sky at 9,500 ft... Medford, the Rogue River Valley, Prospect and Butte Falls lie to our backs, as we look eastward toward Harriman Lodge and Klamath Lake, which is a birder's paradise. The shoulder of Pelican Butte rises about 8 miles away in the 2000 image. Pelican Butte, at 8,000 ft., is the projected home of a new ski resort that is locked in environmental controversy; it is hoping to join Oregon's other major downhill skiing areas, but the latest legal rulings look negative.

Another page about Mt. McLoughlin, "Into the Jaws of Death"


Visit Dutchman's Peak Lookout, one of the remaining active fire lookouts in Oregon

 

Also, Visit Black Mountain Lookout

In the image below you see a ruined log cabin in a meadow in the Mt. Hood National Forest. It dates from about 1911, when it was the home of the forest fire lookout on Lookout Mountain (about 9 air miles east of Mt. Hood). During the daytimes, the lookout climbed to the 6525 ft. summit of Lookout Mountain to search for fires with his alidade instrument. During the nights, he slept in this high meadow on the north side of the peak amidst the flowers and sounds of running waters. By 1914, a new cabin was constructed atop the peak, and gradually the old cabin fell into ruin, although the time frame of that is uncertain as maps from about 1930 show a "High Prarie Ranger Station" at this location. My picture of the cabin below dates from 1976, while the scan of the map is taken from the 1931 version of the Oregon Skyline Trail map. Note that Mt. Hood aleady has its western half protected in a "Mt. Hood Primitive Area." (link to more from 1931 Map)

 

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Page Last Revised 3/02/2016