Red Mountain Lookout - Passport in Time

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Red Mountain Lookout Restoration

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington, 2010
By Terry Richard, The Oregonian

Red Mountain Lookout - Passport in Time project. Our project was completed just in time for the film crew using the lookout this week to shoot some scenes for a movie starring actor Billy Zane, among others.
(Photo: Part of the restoration crew poses in front of the Red Mountain Lookout, Photo courtesy of Rick McClure/USDA)

A remote mountaintop on the crest of the Washington Cascades, 15 miles north of the Columbia River, has seen the completion of a restoration effort on an historic U.S. Forest Service fire lookout station.

Thirteen volunteers with the national Passport in Time program spent two weeks completing restoration of the historic Red Mountain Lookout and associated garage.

Passport in Time is a Forest Service program providing volunteer opportunities in archaeology and historic preservation. The volunteer team included participants from Kansas, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Red Mountain, 4,965 feet in elevation, and located north of Carson, in Skamania County, Wash., was selected for use as a fire detection lookout station by the Forest Service a century ago.

In a special fire report written in 1910, then Forest Supervisor H.O. Stabler said that Red Mountain was, "unquestionably the best lookout point" within the Columbia National Forest (later renamed for Gifford Pinchot, the first agency chief).

The first lookout structure was built on the summit in 1913. The current lookout is a later replacement, built in 1959 following standard Forest Service plans. The associated garage, built in 1938, was used as quarters for Aircraft Warning Service personnel during World War II.

In December 2006, a violent windstorm blew the lookout apart. Radio communication facilities for the county sheriff's department, also on the mountain, were damaged, as well.

The following summer a volunteer effort was begun to restore the damaged fire lookout. The Forest Service credits Matt Haldeman, a Vancouver-area custom home builder, with initiating the project. Haldeman found donations of materials necessary to rebuild the structure.

Passport in Time volunteers donated labor and expertise in reconstruction efforts during 2007 and 2008. Period windows were salvaged from a fire lookout in Oregon. Forest Service employees continued the restoration work last year. The final phase of work, including interior walls and flooring, was completed last week.

Addressing the future of the lookout, district ranger Nancy Ryke said the forest is exploring opportunities for the public to enjoy national treasures like this one.

For now, the best way to enjoy it is to hike there to see it.

Red Mountain Lookout is the last surviving fire lookout in Skamania County, and the last within the Mount Adams Ranger District. The road to the top of

Red Mountain has been closed to vehicles because of vandalism to communications equipment. Hikers can visit the site by way of Racetrack Trail No. 171 from Indian Heaven Wilderness Area.
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