Garwood Butte L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Umpqua National Forest

Status.

Abandoned; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4-1/2 hours

Date visited.

July 30, 2022

Elevation.

7,017

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

Oregon has been in a heat advisory for the last week with temperatures ranging in the mid to high 90s. It even briefly jump up into the low 100s a couple of those days. A haze was expected to settle over all of Oregon for the weekend due to a new wildfire in northern California. Is it too soon to say I miss the rain? Anyway, what better time to head into the forest than when you’re sweltering at home? It turns out it’s pretty hot out there too. But, my partner and I headed on as we always do. This weekend we set our sights on Garwood Butte. We figured we could do The Watchman or Mount Stella while in the area too. Yes, both were also an option. It’s a bit of a drive for a one-night trip, but we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re a bit crazy. Garwood Butte has been on our minds for a while. Mostly, because my partner’s name is Garnet and he goes by Gar on occasion. I couldn’t possibly visit Garwood without him. For this reason alone, we felt a connection to the Fire Lookout. It’s also just a really cute L-4 perched on top of a rocky outcropping with views towards Mount Bailey and the Crater Lake rim. What’s not to love about that? We had originally thought about adding it to our road trip itinerary, but were worried about the potential for snow. After our visit to Pig Iron, we could see it was snow free and that it would be accessible for a future visit to the area this year.

Start of the NF-370 spur
Parking Spot
First glimpse of Garwood

Our alarms were set for 6AM and we were on the road as early as possible. We headed down the I-5 corridor once more, but this time cut over on HWY-58 to meet up with HWY-97. We gave a quick wave to Odell Butte L.O. and Walker Mountain L.O. as we drove past their marked highway turn offs. After a quick refuel in our now frequented stop in Chemult, we turned on to HWY-138 towards Crater and Diamond Lake. We passed the north entrance to Crater Lake NP and stayed on HWY-138 until we reached the turn for HWY-230 off to the left. I have been through this area a few times now on various different trips through out the years. We were also familiar with the route due to an unsuccessful attempt of Garwood during our visit to Cinnamon Butte last December. From HWY-230, we turned right at the access for Three Lakes Sno-Park. We continued straight to stay on NF-3703 until we reached the turn off for NF-370 spur. There were minimal potholes and ruts to avoid along the NF-3703 road. We didn’t even have to attempt a drive up the NF-370 spur to see it wasn’t a drive-able road. There were large ruts and rocks embedded in it that were not low-clearance compatible. The road is marked but the sign is sun-bleached and indecipherable. It is best identified by its terrible condition and a ski post marked with the number 36. We parked in a pull out just past the road. It was already noon by the time we got there, so we decided to have lunch in the comforts of our air conditioned car instead of the summit. While we were hiding out in the car, an ATV came brapping by and waited at the NF-370 junction. At first, we were confused on what they were doing or thought maybe they stopped because they were confused by what we were doing. But then, another ATV followed which triggered the first one to head up the road. When the second ATV reached the junction it proceeded to wait as well. The same thing continued to repeat itself until 8 ATVs had turned up the NF-370 spur. We weren’t too keen on starting a road walk that we knew would end in us being dusted up and decided to wait. The road eventually just dead ends and they would have to come back down. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long and their brapping continued on to somewhere else.

Start of Connector Trail
Where the Connector Trail meets the road again
Beginning of Main Trail

It was hot and dusty when we started our hike up the road. We knew it was roughly two miles to the Fire Lookout from the junction, if you stayed on the road and didn’t use the connector trail. As we walked along, the road conditions continued to deteriorate with larger embedded rocks, downed trees, and wash out. There was a point in the road where the ATVs even turned around. A large tree had come down across it and there wasn’t enough room on either side for them to get around. Ah, that’s why they didn’t take long. It would have required a chain saw to remove it. We both agreed, this was officially the worse road we’ve been on so far. I took some pictures of the road, but it never quite captures the true conditions. We eventually reached a more open area with a view of Garwood Butte. There was a defined trail off to the left that we assumed was the connector trail. A peakbagger report had mentioned this trail was no longer here in 2012, but from what we could see it was now. If you take this trail you can cut off a half of a mile of road walking. It meets back up with the road where the official trail #1471 to Garwood Butte begins. There is no official trail sign, but it was a well defined junction. If you have trouble finding it, always look for the cut logs first. As we headed up the trail, it appeared to have been brushed out more recently. It was clear to us that someone had been taking care of this route somewhat regularly despite the road conditions. It was a hot and slightly humid slog to the summit. The trail switched backed through an interestingly mixed forest until it opened up to an exposed slope. The trail was in great condition besides a few loose sections that made finding my footing more difficult.

My partner reached the summit before me and was already making his rounds on the catwalk as I tried not to completely wilt away in the sun. I always seem to struggle more than him, specifically on steeper trails and in the heat. Partially, because I’m not in as good of shape but there are various other reasons as well. Garwood has a really nice summit on the edge of a rock that dropped off to views of the drainage below. The lookout structure was looking a bit worse for wear on the catwalk. Some of the stairs had broken and one corner was being supported by two boards. There was a sign posted on the cab mentioning the ongoing restoration, but I’m not sure if that is still active. Please use caution if you decide to climb the catwalk. We headed down after taking in the hazed over views and debated our next step. We had already found some decent dispersed camp spots and could have easily set up camp early to relax. But, there was also just enough time left in the day to move on to Mount Stella. We were both torn between wanting to maximize our short trip and just taking it easy for once. Who were we really kidding though? Of course, we headed on to Mount Stella.

History.

Formerly known as Bear Butte, it was renamed to Garwood Butte in 1946 to commemorate Leroy E. Garwood. Leroy was a former Forest Service District Ranger that died in March 1944. He was known as an old-timer on the forest and was the first to develop the lookout station atop the butte. The renaming also helped to eliminate another “bear” named feature within the forest. At the time the following features included the name bear; 6 Bear Creeks, 2 Bear Buttes, 2 Bear Camps, 1 Bear Bluff, 1 Bear Bones, 1 Bear Gulch, 1 Bear Lake, 1 Bear Wallows, 1 Bear Trap Mountain, and 2 Bear Mountains. The structure on Garwood Butte was built in 1942 as a 14’x14′ L-4 ground cab. It was last staffed in 1973 and has since been abandoned. In 2012, the lookout was threatened by a near by fire and had to be wrapped by fire fighters in Structure Protection Wrap. I believe it was the Butte Fire, but there were a few other larger fires during that year that could have caused this to be wrapped. There has been ongoing restoration work in more recent years, but it still needs a lot of work.

Fairview Peak L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Umpqua National Forest

Status.

Active; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4 hours

Date visited.

July 3, 2022

Elevation.

5,933′

National Historic Lookout Register.

No

Trip Report.

Day 9/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

Sign at the junction with NF-767 and NF-2213
Sign at the junction with NF-767 and NF-2212
Sign at the junction with NF-2212 and County Road 2460
Fork in road, County Road 2460 heads up

It was our last full day and we had already hit all of our expected Fire Lookouts for the trip. We had now moved on to our “if we have time” list which left Fairview Peak as our next alternative. We decided to pack up and move camps for the last night. This would set us up closer to Cottage Grove and make our drive home the next day shorter. This time the pavement route around the forest was significantly longer than cutting through on potentially iffy roads. We decided to risk it and headed up NF-38 to connect via NF-3831. NF-3831 is in relatively decent shape, but still required caution. We had to buck up a small tree, ride a few high lines, and move some rocks to get by. Eventually NF-3831 ends at a T-Junction where we took a left on to NF-2213. This junction used to be a four way junction but the NF-925 road has since been decommissioned. There was still a worn out sign for it though. Along this route, we found some impressive old growth Douglas Fir. NF-2213 will take you to another T-junction where it continues off to the right. We turned left here on to NF-767. This was another unsigned road, but there was a sign for Fairview Peak L.O. and Bohemia Saddle. It was roughly 8 miles of gravel roads from NF-38 to NF-767. Surprisingly, NF-767 was the best of all the roads with minimal hazards. It follows along the Calapooya Divide for a little over 2-1/2 miles to connect with NF-2212. There was another sign at this junction pointing towards Fairview Peak. We turned left here. NF-2212 goes directly through the burn area from the Rough Patch fire in 2021. The road was rough, rocky, and full of pot holes from here. It eventually meets up with County Road 2460 at another signed T-junction. The road conditions here were just as bad. We ended up parking in a pull out just before the Musick Guard Station where the road heads steeply up to the Bohemia Saddle. We road walked the remaining distance to the saddle and lookout. At the Bohemia Saddle, there is a large parking area with a trailhead for the Bohemia Mountain trail. The road to the lookout is directly across the saddle from the trailhead. It can be distinguished as the only road continuing up and by the gate with a Fire Lookout icon. The gate was open during our visit, but I assume they typically close it.

The gate for the Guard Station and my car
View from the road walk
At the Bohemia Saddle looking towards Fairview Peak Road
Doe and Fawn

This area is high-traffic in comparison to other towers we have visited. We were dusted up multiple times on our walk due to passing vehicles. We did end up seeing a doe and her fawn along the road though. A reminder that road walking isn’t all that bad and that it was something we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. When we finally reached the summit we were shrouded in a fog cloud, but had it to ourselves. We were also confused since there was no vehicle onsite. At first I assumed that meant there was no lookout here, but we both heard someone moving around in the cab. Interestingly enough, the catwalk door and door to the cab were both open. We assumed this meant someone had to be here. Previous years, this lookout has been apart of the rental program through the Forest Service. But, it was recently pulled into active duty for the 2022 fire season. We didn’t want to risk disturbing the lookout attendant by climbing the tower and they did not come out to greet us. There had been a fleet of vehicles and ATVs that had been coming and going from the area. I would hide out in my tower too if I was them. We enjoyed a lunch and waited for a while to see if the clouds would eventually lift, but had no luck.

We walked back to our parked car and were dusted up a few more times for good measure. We headed back out via NF-2212 to find a camp and hoped the rest of the road was in better condition. Spoiler: It was not. There were portions of it starting to wash out and one particularly large rock embedded in the road that was tricky to maneuver. Someone had spray painted it bring pink to make it more visible to oncoming traffic. It was still a well traveled road and we met a few vehicles on our way out. There were even a couple people who were driving a Prius. After what felt like a life time crawling down NF-2212, we finally reached NF-22. There had been a few dispersed camps along NF-2212 but none were particularly flat or secluded. We quickly ran out of dispersed options and ended up spending the last bit of cash we had on hand at Lund Park Campground. Overall, it had been a successful trip.

Day 10/10: We drove home without incident.

History.

Fairview peak was established for fire detection as early as 1912 with a cabin and an Alidade. In 1921, a standard 12’x12′ D-6 cupola cabin was built. The cupola was eventually lowered and it was converted for additional storage or living quarters after a new tower was built. A 30′ pole tower with L-4 cab was added in 1936. For a brief time, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the tower was used for an Air Force Gap Filler Radar station. It was used for this function up until 1964. Eventually, the tower was replaced with the existing 53′ timber tower and 15’x15′ R-6 cab in 1972. It was moved to the rental program for a while, but I am unsure on when or for how long it was apart of this program. All I know is it was temporarily removed from the program to be actively staffed again for the 2022 fire season. It looks like the lookout received a new super structure as well. It is unclear at this time if it will be actively staffed every season or moved back to a rental.

Pig Iron L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Umpqua National Forest

Status.

Active; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4-1/2 hours

Date visited.

July 2, 2022

Elevation.

4,881′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

Day 8/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

Seasonal gate from Mowich Loop Road
Gate from NF-100 to Pig Iron
Interesting hairy forest
Where the trail meets up with NF-100

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.

Lookout Lisa

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.

History.

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.

Watson Butte L.O.

Former Lookouts

Location.

Umpqua National Forest

Status.

Collapsed during the winter season 2021/2022

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4-1/2 hours

Date visited.

July 2, 2022

Elevation.

5,687′

National Historic Lookout Register.

No

Trip Report.

Day 8/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

We headed out from camp towards HWY-138 once more. Today we were backtracking to Watson Butte and Pig Iron. They are located on opposite ends of the same ridgeline. This made it an easy day for driving since they were both along the same route. From HWY-138 heading east, we turned left on to Mowich Loop Road. The road does as it describes and loops back around to HWY-138. That means there are two opportunities to turn onto this road. If you are coming from Diamond Lake, you will want to take the second turn off to the right that is across from Stump Lake near milepost 67. Technically, both will get you to where you want to go but it’s shorter from this route. We bumped down a pothole filled road until we came to a junction. If you continue straight, it will take you to the Clearwater Forebay. You will want to turn right to stay on Mowich Loop Road. There is a gate here that is seasonally closed to winter traffic. The road improved after the gate but still had a few potholes to avoid. Eventually, you will come to an unmarked T-junction. Mowich Loop Road continues to the right and NF-100 is to the left. We turned left on to NF-100. If you stay on this road it will take you all the way to the gate for Pig Iron L.O. We decided to visit Watson Butte first.

NF-170 sign
Looking at Watson Saddle junction from NF-170

From NF-100, we turned on the first road off to the right. This is the NF-150 spur and does have a sign. We were slightly worried about the roads after seeing the condition of the Mowich Loop Road. The rest of the route was along three number spurs and we hoped we would be able to get close enough to make the hike. We were pleasantly surprised to find the three number roads were in better condition. The only road hazards we met along NF-150 were downed trees. Some of the trees were already cleared by tree cutters, but some were not. We had a buck saw with us and decided to do some road maintenance for the Forest Service. And by we, I mean my partner. I helped clear the area once the trees had been cut though. NF-150 eventually leads to a odd 5-way junction at the Watson Saddle. On the topo map, the road we wanted was labeled NF-164. Based on the directions from the Forest Service, you should take the road farthest to the right. Most of the roads at the junction are not marked though. We were able to find an NF-170 road marker on the road farthest to the right. This was confusing to us since it didn’t match the road numbers on the map and NF-170 should be off to the left. But, It did look like the road most traveled and was farthest off to the right as the Forest Service had recommended. We headed up NF-170 to the right until we were met with a section that started to get brushy. This made us second guess our decision and we headed back to the odd junction. We walked around the junction looking for any confirmation that NF-170 was the correct road. Eventually, we gave up and drove back up NF-170 to the brushy section. We parked in a pull out on the exposed portion of the road just past the brush and decided to start walking.

Where the old road bed starts
Where the trail starts
trail conditions
can you spot the trail?

The Manzanita and Ceanothus were encroaching on the road in some portions and there were a couple down trees, but otherwise it wasn’t in terrible shape. There was a point in the road where it opened up to a view of what we assumed to be Watson Butte. I could see signs of a structure, but it was hard to tell exactly what I was looking at from that distance. I thought it looked collapsed, but I was hopeful my view was just obstructed. We walked for about a mile until we came to the trailhead. There is still a sign noting where the Watson Butte Trail #1443 starts. There was even enough room for a couple cars to park. It is obvious that this trail doesn’t see much use. From the trailhead, it is another 1.1 miles to the summit gaining around 600′ in elevation. We started out by following an old decommissioned road bed until it met with the base of the butte. The trail started to gain more elevation once we left the road. The trail continues faintly through a mostly shaded forest. It was especially faint among the switchbacks. We were able to stay on track by looking for the trail bench in the more overgrown sections. The final push is steep, but eventually opens up to an exposed summit. My partner had made it to the summit before me and I called out to ask if it was still there. He was oddly quiet in response. Eventually, I rounded the corner and saw why. We were too late. We had known Watson Butte L.O. was in bad shape and had been for years, which is why it was on our priority list to visit. There were posts of it standing the year before and we thought we had time. But, we were still too late. Watson Butte L.O. was nothing more than a pile of boards.

I’m not sure if we were the first to discover this or even hike the trail this year, but we were the first to report on it. Nothing can prepare you for coming upon a fire lookout you thought would be standing only to find it destroyed. My partner was in disbelief and even speculated that maybe someone vandalized it. But, to me, it looked like it had succumbed to the elements and time. We had a moment of silence for the lookout that once was before heading back down. It was a sad reminder that we are not going to be able to see them all standing. Some will burn in our ever present fire season, some will be removed by the Forest Service, and others will simply waste away in time. But for now, up a confusing network of poorly marked roads to an overgrown and fading trail you can still hike to what remains of Watson Butte L.O.

History.

Umpqua National Forest Archive – Sept 1942

Normally, I only like to post pictures I’ve taken myself of the Fire Lookouts but I decided to make an exception for Watson Butte. This lookout was built in the 1930s as an L-4 ground cabin. The Forest Service notes this as being built in 1934, but other sources claim it was built in 1937. Either way it had been standing for at least the last 84 years. Before the lookout structure was built, it was established as a camp and a telephone line was extended to the summit in 1920. It hasn’t been actively staffed since the 1960s. At one point there was talk of salvaging it for the rental program, but this never happened. According to Facebook, the last person to have record of it standing was on May 24, 2021. It most likely collapsed under the snow during the winter of 2021/2022.

Illahee Rock L.O. (Revisited)

Oregon Lookouts

Please reference the original post on Illahee Rock L.O. for information on the history of the lookout, status, our initial site visit, and directions.

Date Revisited: July 1, 2022

Trip Report.

Day 7/10: Lookout Road Trip 2022

Ever since our not so graceful redemption visit to Illahee Rock, we have wanted to revisit during more ideal conditions. It wasn’t a high priority since there are so many other fire lookouts to see and only a short window to see them. But, Illahee Rock holds a special place in our hearts. It was the catalyst that triggered our pursuit to visit as many standing fire lookouts as possible. We had this as a potential add on to our road trip if conditions were favorable and we had extra time while in the area. Thanks to a recent post by the Wandering Yuncks we knew it’d be snow free this time too.

This was essentially a rest day for us from the go-go of the trip. We were already situated close to the access road for Illahee Rock and it was our only plan for the remainder of the day. We had a leisurely breakfast at camp before packing a lunch and heading out to HWY-138. The access road is fittingly named Illahee Road, which is also NF-4760. It is located just past the Umpqua’s Last Resort. You will wind up this decent gravel road for 7-1/2 miles to the junction with NF-100. Make sure to watch for fallen rocks on the road. We decided to park at this junction and walk since I recalled NF-100 having some larger potholes. After further inspection, all the potholes would have been passable to the Civic with caution. We stayed on NF-100 for about a mile before we reached the NF-104 spur off to the left. This will take you to the trailhead. The NF-104 spur is pretty overgrown and rocky. I wouldn’t attempt driving it in a low-clearance vehicle. From the trailhead, it is a short hike to the summit. It was really nice to see everything snow free for a change. The trail is still in great shape, even after the fires, with only a few downed trees to navigate. The wildflowers were in bloom too and we had commanding views in every direction. There is a hole in the catwalk that someone had cut just big enough for access. It was here during our last visit as well, but I didn’t have the energy to climb through it then. Also, in case it needs to be said, please do not cut holes in the catwalks of fire lookouts. But, since it was already there, I decided to get a better look. We had the trail and summit to ourselves aside from a kettle of Turkey Vultures that checked us out. I knew I didn’t smell great, but it must have been much worse than I thought to attract the Vultures. They eventually realized we weren’t road kill and moved on to something else. We enjoyed our lunch on the catwalk and soaked in the sunshine before heading back to the car.

The next day we were able to get a bit more clarification on the status of Illahee Rock from the lookout attendant we met on Pig Iron. She was the last lookout to staff Illahee Rock in 2016. She didn’t go into details on why they stopped staffing it or if they planned to staff it again. We could tell she was very passionate about Illahee Rock and would’ve preferred to be stationed there instead. The Forest Service had moved her to Pig Iron as an alternative. Any friend of Illahee Rock is a friend to her.

Cinnamon Butte L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Umpqua National Forest

Status.

Active; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

4 hours

Date visited.

December 4, 2021

Elevation.

6,417′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

We debated visiting this lookout during the winter months and planning it as a snowshoe since the access road, NF-4793, is located right off of HWY-138. There’s also a small snow park located right at the turn off. This would be easy to access since it is plowed in the winter. There hadn’t been much snow in this area as of recently and we decided to check it out as a day hike instead. The weekend forecasted for cold but sunny skies. We were hopeful we wouldn’t be met with any snow and decided to try for Garwood Butte L.O. while we were in the area too. As we made our way down to the Umpqua NF from Portland, we could see patchy snow on the tips of the high peaks. We decided to head for Garwood Butte first but only made it a little less than a mile down the road before we were met with deep snow. It wasn’t worth the risk to drive, so we continued on to Cinnamon Butte. We turned on to NF-4793 and were uncertain if we’d be met with more snow. There is a sign for the lookout from HWY-138 and at the road junction off of NF-4793, so it is easy to find. The turn off for the lookout access road is only a mile and a half up NF-4793. I figure this road gets more sun exposure since we were able to drive to the junction with no issues. It is a gated road so you will need to park and walk the remaining distance. From the gate it is another 1.5 miles to the summit. As you hike up the road, you will already start to get some great views of Mt. Thielsen and the surrounding Diamond Lake area. There is a large parking lot on the summit which makes me believe you can drive there in the summer months. We had the summit to ourselves for the majority of the time. Another couple had hiked up while we were eating lunch but didn’t stay for very long. We took our time on the summit since we already had reservations in Roseburg for the night. It was a gorgeous day to visit!

History.

The current lookout tower was built for Buster Butte in 1955 as a 41′ treated tower and R-6 flat roof cab. It wasn’t moved to Cinnamon Butte until 1976. It has since seen some renovations. The original Cinnamon Butte L.O. was developed as a 35′ tower with L-4 cab in 1934 by the CCC. This lookout is one of the few that is still actively staffed every summer. The structure was threatened by the Thielsen Fire in September 2020. Evidence on how close the fire came can be seen on your hike up the road. It’s apparent that the access road was part of the fire break.

More Information.

US Forest Service

AllTrails

Illahee Rock L.O.

Oregon Lookouts

Location.

Umpqua National Forest

Status.

Not staffed; Currently standing

Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.

6 hours

Date visited.

May 1, 2021

Elevation.

5,392′

National Historic Lookout Register.

Yes

Trip Report.

The first time my partner and I thought about visiting Illahee Rock Lookout was on my birthday weekend in April 2021. At the last minute, we had decided to travel to the Umpqua NF for the weekend instead of Olympic National Park. We did not do any proper research on what was in the area due to the last minute change and came unprepared without a topographic map. Illahee Rock Lookout was marked on our general road atlas and seemed to even note the Forest Service road needed to get there. It appeared to be direct and we figured we would give it a shot. We were closer to Steamboat Falls C.G., so we decided to take the back road to get there. We drove my Civic up NF-4760 that is just past the campground. The road was in great condition and we became optimistic as we caught a glimpse of the lookout sitting on the ridge. My car made it all the way to the junction with NF-300 where there was a deep patch of snow covering the road. We decided we were close enough to reach the lookout via a road hike and parked the car in a pullout. We started to trudge through the snow banks on the road, alternating between clear patches and deep snow. We came to a sharp fork in the road where neither of the roads had a visible number sign. It appeared to us that the main road continued straight and the road that sharply turned was a spur road. Later, we would come to find out it was the opposite. We continued straight on this road for miles, walking up and over a ridge that we assumed to be Ragged Butte. We even came to a junction that appeared to have parking and an old gate like you would find near a fire lookout. We continued down this road assuming we were finally at the road junction leading to the lookout trail. We even passed an extremely large rock that we assumed had to be Bartrums Rock or even Illahee Rock itself. It wasn’t until we met the road’s dead end that we realized how far off track we truly were. When I say we were hopeful that we were on the right track, I mean that we were so sure it was around the next corner that we convinced ourselves to hike 7.77 miles away from my car. Which meant we had to hike another 7.77 miles back. We didn’t make it back to the car until well past dark and got back to camp closer to midnight. To make matters worse, I had neglected to fully charge my headlamp before coming and we had to rely on my partner’s light on the way back. When I finally saw the reflection from our light on my Honda, I cried tears of joy.

After consulting a much better map upon our return to Portland, we realized we had ended up on NF-100. The ridge we thought was Ragged Butte was actually Dog Mountain. The junction with the gate was NF-120, which wasn’t marked. Otherwise, we would have known to turn around sooner. And the rock we saw was Limpy Rock, not Bartrums. After such a complete failure we were determined to redeem ourselves and make it to Illahee Rock Lookout as soon as humanly possible.

ILLAHEE ROCK LOOKOUT REDEMPTION! We decided on our next free weekend we would drive down early Saturday morning to hike to Illahee Rock Lookout and then camp at Steamboat Falls C.G. for a night before heading home. We did more research on the area, packed a better map, and decided to go up the more conventional route on the other side of NF-4760. This side of the road is just as well maintained and I had no issues driving my Civic up it. We were once again met with snow on the road and pulled my car into another pull out. This time I was happy to find we were just a 1/2 mile short of the junction with NF-100 (same number but different road from the last time we were in this area). We walked along this road until we met with NF-104, which leads to the trailhead. We were once again optimistic! That is until we rounded the corner and were met with deep snow drifts. Feeling uneasy about another trudge through more snow I convinced my partner we should go up the “other trail.” It was on the more exposed side of the mountain and in theory, would be snow free. According to the topographic map of this area there are two trails that lead up to Illahee Rock Lookout, one originating south of the lookout and one beginning north of the lookout. After backtracking, we started to search for where the other trail should be according to the map. At one point we found a game trail that we followed for a while but it only led to Bartrums Rock and wasn’t on the correct side of the road. We searched again and found an old road that might have led to where we needed to go but was too overgrown to know for sure. Accepting that this trail no longer exists, we backtracked again to NF-104. We made our way over the snow banks until we found the actual trailhead. It does exist! From there it is supposed to be a little less than a mile one way.

We started up the official Illahee Lookout trail #1539. We crossed one major snow bank that was easy to maneuver on a gradual slope. The trail seemed to be mostly snow free as we switchbacked up. It wasn’t until we went around to the northern side of the trail that we found we were wrong again. We became frustrated, knowing that we were so close to this lookout. However, these snowbanks were different than the ones we faced on the roads, they were now sloping off of a cliff covering a narrow trail. My fear of falling kicked in and I opted to turn around. My partner is more headstrong and was not going to leave without seeing this lookout. I decided to wait on the trail while he continued on over the snow. I waited there for a while hoping for the best and fearing the worst. I started to hear someone whistling down the trail and assumed it was him on his jolly way back. I was shocked to see another couple come around the bend instead of him. I was so shocked that I didn’t even bother to ask them if they saw my partner or how the trail conditions were. I could only muster up a “hello,”as they passed by. I figured that if there were other people on this trail then it couldn’t be that bad around the corner and maybe I should have attempted to hike up the trail as well. Soon after my partner returned and told me how close we were. He claimed there weren’t too many snow banks to cross and it wasn’t as bad as it looked. He also told me that there were no footprints in the snow before his, so the couple we saw somehow climbed up the talus slope on the other side. They might have been crazier than us to try that from what I saw on that side of the mountain. After talking it over for a while he was able to convince me to head up the rest of the way to the lookout. It took a lot of hand holding and a bit of tears for me to make it because once I rounded the first snowbank there were many more to face and they were worse than I thought. I used kick steps to shuffle my way up and down them but my anxiety didn’t subside until I returned to the spot where I had originally waited for my partner.

History.

The whole day we had been circling this butte it had been clouded in fog. But now that we were both on the summit it had cleared out to a spectacular view. The original D-6 Cupola from 1925 is still standing and was converted to a tool shed in 1958. The L-4 tower was built in 1956 when the D-6 was considered too small to house two fire lookouts. Illahee Rock Lookout does not appear to be actively staffed anymore since there was no longer a solar panel when we visited. It might still be staffed in high fire danger but I couldn’t find any information to confirm.

Illahee Rock Lookout is a short, two mile round trip hike with roughly 600 feet of elevation gain. But in total we ended up hiking 24.74 miles trying to get to this lookout. The moral of the story is this: don’t go chasing fire lookouts in early spring!

More Information.

US Forest Service

AllTrails