Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
Abandoned; Currently standing
Estimated drive time from Portland, OR.
September 17, 2022
National Historic Lookout Register.
US 1679; OR 166
We headed back out to HWY-3 from Courtney Butte once we were free from the confines of the caravan. We headed south towards Enterprise for another 20 miles until we reached the turn for NF-46 off to the left. According to the map, Red Hill would be situated just off of NF-46 and should be obvious. Though we knew this wasn’t always the case, an immediate example being our visit to Lookout Mountain the previous evening. As we headed up NF-46, I was less confident that we’d have enough time to get there and back before dinner. I wasn’t going to miss out on that this time! I gave us a cut off time of 5:30PM. If we hadn’t made it there by then we would ultimately turn around and plan to visit on Sunday instead. The first portion of NF-46 is paved and wide enough for two large vehicles to pass each other, it looked like relatively fresh pavement too. Once it turned to gravel there were some pot holes from wet condition drivers in certain areas. It was a mostly decent road and you would be able to drive it in a passenger vehicle with some caution.
We reached Red Hill almost exactly at 5:30PM. It was about 22-1/2 miles from HWY-3 to the lookout. There was a sign 1/4 of a mile from the turn off to Red Hill that just said “point of interest”. We thought that was interesting, but knew it was referring to the Fire Lookout. There was also a small sign for Red Hill L.O. at the turn. The lookout is located in a open field and would be hard to miss even without all the signage. We had planned to head to Kirkland Butte as well since it was so close, but there just wasn’t enough time to do it all. We would be back in the area sometime to get the ones we missed.
We parked and walked around the base of the lookout while taking pictures. We knew we couldn’t spend too much time here and gave ourselves 10 to 15 minutes to explore around. The first flight of stairs is completely removed to keep people from climbing the tower. I’m sure it helps to deter vandalism as well. The cab wasn’t in the best of shape, but the super structure looked fairly sturdy. This would make a good project for the FFLA. We left around 5:45PM and it took us almost an hour exactly to get back to the VFW post. I would’ve liked to spend more time on Red Hill, but I also really wanted the Pizza dinner they were offering.
The site on Red Hill has been used for fire detection since 1922, possibly even as early as 1917. The first tower was a tree with added spikes to aid in climbing. This tree was over 115′ and the lookout attendant would climb to where the tree forked a few feet from the top. It even had its own 25′ flag pole attached to the top. In 1924, a pole tower with 10’x10′ cab was built to replace the tree. The current lookout was completed in 1949 as a 40′ treated timber tower with L-4 cab. It has since been abandoned and is in bad enough shape that they removed the first flight of stairs to prevent people from climbing the tower.