Deschutes National Forest
Abandoned; Currently standing
Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.
October 9, 2021
National Historic Lookout Register.
My partner and I decided to make a quick one-night trip down to the Deschutes National Forest area for the weekend. We wanted to try and see Henkle Butte, Trout Creek Butte, and Lava Butte lookouts. Trout Creek Butte L.O. is an easy drive outside of Sisters. To get there you will take the Mackenzie HWY-242 to signed NF-15. NF-15 starts out paved and eventually turns to well-maintained gravel. After 5 miles it will fork to become NF-1524 and NF-1522. You will keep right to stay on NF-1524. Eventually it will fork again with NF-1524 continuing to the left and NF-1018 to the right. You will stay right at this junction as well. Continue on NF-1018 until you find spur NF-800 on the right. It is a pretty notable road since it is still red rock instead of fresh gravel. FS-800 will take you the remaining way to the summit. All roads were in decent condition and are manageable in a passenger vehicle. There are a few bumps on NF-800 but you’ll make it with caution. We decided not to drive to the summit and parked in a pull out near the old gate. The gate is still there but no longer blocks the road. It’s about a 1/2 mile to the summit from this point in the road. Walking up the road to the summit, we became worried that the tower might have fallen or already been removed. The area was burned in the 2017 Milli Fire but there are still a lot of tall trees on the summit obscuring the view. We weren’t able to see the tower until we were almost to the base of it. It was like playing Where’s Waldo? with a lookout. Scroll down if you want to try and spot it in my pictures. The first three levels of stairs are removed due to safety concerns and to help deter vandalism. The tower is in terrible condition. The cab on top is missing its floor, window glass, and part of the roof. Although there is not much of a view from the summit, the views from the road before the summit are worth the stop alone. We drove back down NF-800 to the junction with NF-1018. Instead of heading back out the way we came, we turned to take NF-1018 in the other direction. If you stay on NF-1018, it will eventually take you all the way back to HWY-242. But it will pass Whispering Pine C.G. beforehand. We were running out of day light so we decided to camp there for the night.
This 75′ steel Aermotor tower with 7×7 cab is the original built by the CCC in 1933. Some sources note this as a 86′ tower instead, but I believe this is counting the concrete poured for the tower. The tower was last used for emergencies up until the 1970s. There used to be a T-1E 16×18 garage and 14×16 wood living cabin on the summit as well. Both were built a year after the tower in 1934, but I couldn’t confirm any information on what happened to these structures. The outhouse was relocated to Sand Mountain L.O. as part of a restoration project in 1992. The tower is the only remaining structure on the summit and is slated to be decommissioned by the Deschutes NF.
Can you spot the lookout?
Pull the slider to the left to see where the lookout is located in the below pictures.