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Canyon Sketches Vol 13 - Sept. 2009

Four Grand Canyon National Park Lookout Towers have been listed on the National Historic Lookout Register

View 1916 Silent movie of early fire fighting efforts at Grand Canyon

View 1995 Roy Lemons interview on manning the Signal Hill lookout in 1937.

 
Looking up at the North Rim Fire Tower.

North Rim Lookout Tower

Photo Courtesy of Dave Lorenz - FFLA

Four historic fire lookout towers in Grand Canyon National Park, two on the North Rim and two on the South Rim, have been listed on the National Historic Lookout Register.

The National Historic Lookout Register is a cooperative effort of the Forest Fire Lookout Association, the National Forestry Association, the National Woodland Owners Association, the U.S. Forest Service, state forestry departments and Department of Interior agencies.

The purpose of the National Historic Lookout Register is to identify historic lookout towers that have played an important role in forest conservation.

 
Amy Horn, Archeologist with fire management team members, Jared Fallon (middle) and Fred Adams (right)

At the dedication: Amy Horn, Park Cultural Resources Program Manager with North Zone Fire Management Team members, Jared Fallon (middle) and Fred Adams (right)

Photo Courtesy of Dave Lorenz - FFLA

A short ceremony in recognition of Grand Canyon’s lookout towers listing on the National Historic Lookout Register was held in conjunction with the Grand Opening of the North Rim Wildland Fire and Emergency Services Facility on July 4, 2009.

These towers were an important part of the early fire-fighting efforts of Grand Canyon National Park. The lookout towers in Grand Canyon National Park are part of a broad network of fire lookout towers and associated support buildings and structures in the American Southwest built in the late nineteenth through twentieth centuries.

 

Early park managers were extremely concerned about locating and extinguishing fires in the 1920s to the 1960s.

 
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All four of these towers are inactive, which reflects the shift in fire control policy, from one of immediate suppression of all fires to using an array of fire management actions including prescribed burns, wildland use fires, suppression, and incorporating fire as a natural ecosystem process to restore natural forest conditions.

 
Kanabownits Lookout Tower by Dave Lorenz
DAVE LORENZ - FFLA
Kanabownits
The U.S. Forest Service first constructed wooden lookout platforms at Hopi Point and Grandview Point on the South Rim and on Bright Angel Point on the North Rim prior to the establishment of Grand Canyon National Park in 1919.

The National Park Service improved this early lookout system by replacing the wooden platforms with steel frame towers at Bright Angel Point and Hopi Point, and by building the Signal Hill and Kanabownits towers. The Civilian Conservation Corps built tree towers on the North and South Rims in the mid-1930s. The National Park Service improved emergency communications by installing new phones and establishing a central dispatch at Grand Canyon Village during the 1920s.

These lookouts were a part of a very efficient fire suppression program: fires rarely burned more than one hundred acres in the park each year until modern fire management guidelines were initiated.
Signal Hill Lookout Tower by Dave Lorenz
DAVE LORENZ - FFLA
Signal Hill
 
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Signal Hill Tower

Signal Hill (1929)

The Signal Hill tower is near Pasture Wash on the South Rim and was constructed in 1929. The Tower is a 7 x 7 Aermotor LS-40. It is about 35 feet high and is located at an elevation of 6,780 feet.

CCC enrollee, Roy Lemons, manned this tower during the summer of 1937. (oral history excerpt above)

Download the transcript (20kb PDF file)

 
Hopi Fire Tower 1953 on.

Hopi (1953 version)

Three towers have occupied the Hopi Point location.

The first Hopi tower was constructed in 1909 - with an improved version appearing in the 1916 video. (shown above)

The park's 1927 tower was built by Baker Manufacturing with a 10 x 10 cabin. The lookout was remodeled in 1953 with a new cab and catwalk which was reduced in height from 40 feet to 23’6”. The tower is located at 7,140 feet.

 
View up at the North Rim Lookout.

North Rim (1928)

The North Rim Lookout was originally constructed in 1928, and moved to its current location at the north entrance in 1933 by the CCC.

The 7x7 steel Aermotor LX-24 was modified and it is now located at an elevation of 9,165 feet. The tower is 75 feet tall. This lookout tower is also famous for one its operators: author Edward Abbey worked there for four years in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
 
Kanabownitz tower - view on corner.

Kanabownitz (1940)

The Kanabownitz tower, also on the North Rim, was constructed in 1940 by the CCC in one of the last major projects they completed in the park.

This is an International Derrick (IDEOC) 7x7 steel tower and cab which is 82’6” high and stands at an elevation of 8,241 feet.

Download a representative sample of a National Historic Lookout Register Certificate:
Kanabownitz Lookout, April 25, 2009 (421kb PDF file)

 

Amy Horn, Grand Canyon National Park’s Archeology Program Manager and Dave Lorenz, Director of the Arizona Chapter of Forest Fire Lookout Association, collaborated on the nomination of the four Grand Canyon lookouts to the National Historic Lookout Register. Horn said, “This listing recognizes the important role Grand Canyon's lookout towers and the firefighters who manned them played in early firefighting across the West.”

Photos courtesy of Dave Lorenz - FFLA


Related Information

For more on the National Historic Lookout Register, see http://www.nhlr.org/

Forest Fire Lookout Association, see http://www.firelookout.org/

National Park Service Fire and Aviation Management
Fire news, photos and videos.
http://www.nps.gov/fire/index.cfm


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