Relocated, refurbished, & maintained for educational purposes
Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.
March 25, 2022
We decided to stop off at the Columbia Breaks Fire Interpretive Center for a quick stretch and lunch before heading to our weekend reservations at Steliko Point. The building was closed during our visit but the parking area and interpretive trail were still open to the public. The self guided trail is only 1/2 mile and features three fire lookouts that were relocated and restored. You might also see a few Marmot’s along the trail, they like to hide among the rocks. The main focus of the trail is to educate on the historic impact of wildfires and its importance in ecology. It also touches on the pros and cons of human effects in fire management. If you like fire lookouts and find the history of wildfires interesting this is worth the stop while in the area. The CBFIC is a non-profit and financed through donations. Places like this are important for preservation and education. Please donate if you are able or visit their website to learn about getting involved!
Chelan Butte L.O.
Chelan Butte L.O. is a 28′ treated timber tower with 14’x14′ standard L-4 cab. It was moved to the CBFIC in 1995, but originally sat at 3,835′ on a butte overlooking the town of Chelan and Lake Chelan. The current lookout was built in 1938 by the CCC as a replacement for the original tower that burned down. The original lookout built on Chelan Butte was a 40′ pole tower with L-4 cab in 1936. It was placed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places in 1990. The lookout, for the most part, maintains it’s original integrity but the shutters were replaced and the tower was lowered by 4′ to accommodate the CBFIC site.
Flattop Mountain L.O.
Flattop Mountain has had a unique history of lookouts throughout the years. It has an elevation of 4,394′ and is located in the Gifford Pinchot NF. It was named due to it’s broad and flat summit. It was so broad that they developed the site with two fire finders at each end in the 1920’s. The remaining lookout that can be found at the CBFIC is a replica of the lookout from the east point of the mountain. Some of the old wood from the lookout was used in the reconstruction, specifically the roof and wooden frame supports.
The first structure built on the summit of Flattop Mountain was a 16’x20′ frame house on the east point in the early 1920s. Around the 1930s they moved the frame house to the west point and built a 7’x7′ foot frame cab in it’s place. It was quickly replaced by an L-5 cab in 1933. The reconstructed replica that can be found at the CBFIC is based off the lookout that was built in 1946. It was a prototype 2-story 14’x14′ foot frame cab with slanted windows and curved hip roof. It is the only one of this style to ever be built. Originally it was thought to be the next generation of lookouts, but the Pacific Northwest was standardized on the R-6 flat top cab instead. The site was abandoned in 1960 where the lookout was subject to vandalism and fell into disrepair. There were plans to destroy it, but the Forest Fire Lookout Association was able to dismantle and relocate it to the CBFIC in 2005.
The history of the west point of Flattop started in 1930 when they moved the 16’x20′ frame house over from the east point. The house was updated in 1934 when they added two screen porches and an observation cupola. This was used until the site was abandoned and the west point house was destroyed in 1960.
Badger Mountain L.O.
Badger Mountain L.O. is a 14’x14′ standard L-4 cab that used to have a 18′ treated timber tower. It was originally constructed in the 1930s by the CCC for Lion Rock located in the Cle Elum Ranger District. It was later moved to Badger Mountain just outside the Wenatchee NF in Douglas County. The site was situated at 3,498′ and chosen due to its vantage point of the Wenatchee NF across the Columbia River. The lookout was actively staffed up until the 1970s where it was moved to emergency status. Its last recorded use was during the Dinkelman Fire in 1988. In 1990, it was placed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places and then relocated to the CBFIC in the fall of 1999. The shutters were replaced due to prolonged weather exposure but otherwise the lookout has undergone minimal change since it was originally constructed.
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