Views from these historic structures leave burning memories.
Snow-clad and draped in glacial-ice, it seems unlikely that wildfire would pose a threat to Mount Rainier. However, ringing the base of the 14,410-foot volcano is a nearly unbroken canopy of towering firs, hemlocks, and cedars within the 235,000 acre national park. And surrounding the park are millions of acres of additional timberland managed within national and state forests and private tree farms. When the nascent United States Forest Service decided that it was a good idea to start building fire lookouts to watch over this treasure trove of timber, they looked toward Rainier's lofty slopes as the perfect spots to site them.
In 1916 the US Forest Service constructed a stone shelter for fire watching at 9,584-feet on Mount Rainier's Anvil Rock just below Muir Camp. The rock hovel was replaced 12 years later by a cupola cabin. And while this location did indeed provide excellent fire finding with its sweeping horizon spanning views-all too often it was shrouded in clouds prohibiting any viewing at all.
Long before beat poet Jack Kerouac immortalized the Deception Peak lookout in the North Cascades, author Mary Hardy penned a well-received book, Tatoosh in 1947...
That was the issue too with the park's second fire lookout situated on a 7,176-foot point on the Colonnade on Rainier's northwest shoulder. Built in 1930, it was soon taken out of use, replaced by a new tower at lower Sunset Park. But Anvil Rock remained staffed until 1942, not so much as to report fires but to record weather data. Soon after the first tower was constructed on Mount Rainier, both the park service and the forest service realized what many hikers know today-that some of the best and more reliable alpine views are not on the mountain itself, but on the surrounding lower ridges and knobs immune to near perpetual cloud cover.
By the 1930s, the park service and forest service began surveying more appropriate locations for fire lookout placement. And with the nation now in a Great Depression with millions of unemployed young men enrolled in FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC); forest and park officials had an army of labor at their disposal to construct new fire towers.
Up they went, mostly two story cabins with wrap around balconies; simple in elegance and utilitarian in design. Within the national park seven new fire towers were built; Shriner Peak (el. 5,846-feet) in 1932; Tolmie Peak (el. 5,939-feet) in 1933; Sunset Park (el. 5,530-feet) in 1933; Gobblers Knob (el. 5,485-feet) in 1933; Mount Fremont (el. 7,181-feet) in 1934; Crystal Mountain (el. 6,605-feet) and another lookout on a nearby knoll above Crystal Lake (el. 6,595-feet) in 1934.
And along the park's periphery in the Snoqualmie National Forest (now Mount Baker-Snoqualmie), Wenatchee National Forest (now Okanogan-Wenatchee) and Columbia National Forest (now Gifford Pinchot), the CCC constructed scores of fire lookouts on ridges, knolls and summits. To the north, lookouts sprouted up on Clear West Peak, Suntop, Kelley Butte, and Bearhead Mountain among others.
To the south, a precariously built lookout was constructed above sheer ledges on 5,685-foot High Rock. And a lookout was built on a 6,310-foot rounded knoll in the Tatoosh Range; where long before beat poet Jack Kerouac immortalized the Deception Peak lookout in the North Cascades, author Mary Hardy penned a well-received book, Tatoosh in 1947 about her experiences as a fire watch during World War II.
Along Mount Rainier National Park's western boundary, a lookout tower was built in 1934 on 5,450-foot Glacier View peak. Thirty years later, the Washington Department of Natural Resources constructed a tower on 4,930-foot Puyallup Ridge. It still stands and is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register. However, it is rarely visited due to access issues over private land.
|Four fire lookouts remain within the national park:|
|1932||Shriner Peak, 5,846-ft|
|1933||Tolmie Peak, 5,939-ft|
|1933||Gobblers Knob, 5,485-ft|
|1934||Mount Fremont, 7,181-ft|
|Three lookouts are within adjacent national forest land:|
|1930||High Rock, 5,685-ft|
|1950||Kelly Butte, 5,409-ft|