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Last Cupola Lookout Tower Tops Dutchman Peak

Fire lookout stations are a fading legacy of Oregon.  Built in the 1920’s and 30’s, often by the Civilian Conservation Corps, fire lookouts have gradually been replaced by planes, helicopters and surveillance cameras. Many have been torn down or left vacant, while others are being rebuilt as vacation rentals.

One of the oldest lookouts still in service in the United States sits atop Dutchman Peak near the California-Oregon border. Built in 1927, it is the last of the original cupola-style lookouts still in use. Rangers look for fires from the cupola that protrudes from the roof of the elevated cabin.  At 7,364 feet, Dutchman Peak is also one of the highest remaining lookouts in the state and is listed on the National Register of Historic Lookouts.

Dutchman Peak still has an original 360-degree Osborne Firefinder map invented in 1911 by William Bushnell Osborne, who worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Portland. Without any electronic parts, it allows rangers to pinpoint a fire quickly and accurately. Some argue that staffed lookout towers with their seemingly less sophisticated tools, beat modern fire-spotting methods.

Accessible by road in summer and a short distance from the Pacific Crest Trail, Dutchman Peak provides spectacular views of the area, including snow-topped Shasta and McLaughlin mountains.

Sources: "Dutchman Peak Lookout." Geocaching, https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC2BTB9. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017; "Lookouts in Oregon." National Historic Lookout Register, https://www.nhlr.org/blog/lookouts/us/or/. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017; Ettema, Hannah. "Nine Questions about Lookout Towers." National Forest Foundation, https://www.nationalforests.org/blog/nine-questions-about-lookout-towers. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.