Umpqua National Forest
Active; Currently standing
Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.
July 2, 2022
National Historic Lookout Register.
Day 8/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022
We somberly headed back out to NF-100 after our unfortunate discovery on Watson Butte. Instead of heading back to Mowich Loop Road, we turned right to head to the other side of the ridge. We stayed on NF-100, which was a fairly well maintained gravel road, until we reached the gate. As described in my post about Watson Butte, access is from Mowich Loop Road off of HWY-138 near Stump Lake and milepost 67. Take a right at the junction with the road to Clearwater Forebay. You will pass through a seasonal gate to stay on Mowich Loop Road. Take a left at the unmarked T-junction to turn onto NF-100. From the gate, it is a mile road walk to the Fire Lookout. You can also access the Fire Lookout from Pig Iron Trail #1438, but I’ve read that it is overgrown and steep. It was a fairly pleasant and flat road walk. Based on information I read online, I had thought Pig Iron was only staffed on a volunteer basis. We weren’t sure if we’d meet anyone during our visit though. Once we had a view of the lookout we could see a car parked and hoped they were friendly. We didn’t have to wait long before the lookout decided to come out and greet us. She introduced herself as Lisa and asked if we had come up the road or trail. We mentioned we had come from the road. She said her gate had been cut by vandals at some point during the beginning of the season and it was kind of scary not knowing who could drive up. Luckily, it seemed one of the Forest Service crews had recently fixed this issue. When we had walked around the gate there had been a new chain added and it was safely locked. She didn’t leave her post often, so she was relieved to hear that. We talked for a while about the surrounding area, Illahee Rock, the FFLA, and the importance of volunteers and advocacy within the community. We didn’t get invited up on the catwalk or in the cab, but the views were the same from the base. We mentioned our trip up to Watson Butte and she said she didn’t even realize it had still been up there. She thought it had been removed a while back, possible due to misinformation on the Former Fire Lookout Site. We didn’t stay for too long since it was already fairly late in the afternoon and we still had to drive back to our base camp. We made sure to thank Lisa for her time and information before heading back to the car.
Lisa is the current lookout attendant on Pig Iron and is employed through the Forest Service. She is accompanied by her cat. She has staffed this lookout since 2017 and was the last person to staff Illahee Rock in 2016. She has worked on many different lookouts including, but not limited to, the Watchman, Mt Scott, Mt Harkness, & Pickett Butte. She started her work with the Forest Service in Air Quality which lead her to Fire Lookouts. She has worked as a Ranger for Crater Lake and the North Cascades National Parks. I believe she said she worked at Crater Lake NP for 15 seasons. She mentioned she used to do wilderness snowshoe trips for kids in the park. Pig Iron had recently had some work done on the catwalk, stairs, and windows due to damage during the 2021/2022 winter season.
In 1950, the site on Pig Iron had been established with a fire camp. The lookout used a tent for living quarters and had a Fire Finder situated outside. There was a cover for when the Fire Finder was not in use and a small shed nearby for storage. A lookout structure was built during the same year. It is described as a 14’x14′ hip-roofed cab (the NHLR describes it as 10’x10′) with a 10′ wooden tower. It has 3’x3′ solid pane windows. It’s a similar structure to a standard L-4 design but not quite the same. It is situated below the actual summit for a better view.