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Fire Towers on Isle Royale

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The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed three timber-framed fire lookout towers across Isle Royale in the 1930s. At the time of their construction, the NPS had a strict “no-burn” policy and required that all fires be extinguished immediately. These towers provided rangers a high vantage point with a 360-degree view to spot signs of fires across the island.

In the early 1960s, the timber-framed fire towers were deteriorating and each was replaced with a modern steel framed structure in the same location. These towers continued as lookout points for many years, until modern methods of detection (such as satellite imagery linked to computers), became available.

Over time, the needs of the park have changed, and the lookout towers are no longer used for spotting fires. The Ojibway and Feldtmann Towers are now used as communications towers for radio contact.

cloudy view of fire tower protruding over the landscape
Contemporary view of the Feldtmann Fire Tower.

NPS Photo / Katie Keller

Feldtmann Tower

Located on Feldtmann Ridge, the tower provided access to fire lookouts for the western half of the island. It is no longer used as a fire lookout, and is instead used as a communications tower for park operations.

wood debris laying on the ground from old fire tower
Ruins of timber-framed Feldtmann Tower.

NPS Photo / Katie Keller

Visiting the Tower

The Feldtmann Tower is approximately halfway between the Feldtmann Lake and Siskiwit Bay Campgrounds on Feldtmann Ridge. It can be reached on foot from Windigo by following the Feldtmann Loop Trail to the southwest toward Feldtmann Lake, or from Rock Harbor by way of the Green Stone Ridge Trail and then following the Feldtmann Loop Trail toward Island Mine Campground. The tower can be reached by boat and then foot by docking at Siskiwit Bay Campground and following the Feldtmann Ridge trail west.

the Ishpeming Fire Tower sits surrounded by trees at one of the highest points on the island
The Ishpeming Fire Tower, perched atop one of the highest points on the island, sits surrounded by forest.

NPS Photo / Katie Keller

Ishpeming Tower

The shortest of the three towers sits close to the center of the island on the Greenstone Ridge. Surrounding vegetation of the building site for the tower was low enough at the time that a shorter tower was deemed efficient. As time has gone on, the surrounding trees have since grown up around the surrounding area, leading to limited visibility from the tower.

Visiting the tower

Reaching the tower from Windigo or Rock Harbor requires taking the Greenstone Ridge Trail toward the center of the Island. Ishpeming tower is approximately halfway between the Lake Desor South and Hatchet Lake campgrounds, and is located at the Greenstone Ridge trail and Malone Bay trail intersection. The tower can also be reached by way of boat and foot, by docking at the Malone Bay campground and following the Malone Trail to the Greenstone Ridge Trail.

fire tower stands on backdrop of a blue sky
Looking upon the Mount Ojibway Tower from the Greenstone Ridge Trail.

NPS Photo / Katie Keller

Ojibway Tower

Located on the eastern end of the island, it provides views of the five fingers area as well as inland toward Ishpeming Tower. It is no longer used as a fire lookout, and is instead used as a communications tower for park operations.

historic photo of Ojibway Fire Tower
The original, wooden, Mount Ojibway fire tower as photographed in the 1950s.

NPS Photo / National Visual Inventory Cards 50-152

Visiting the Tower

There are multiple trails that lead to the Ojibway fire tower, which is located on the Greenstone Ridge trail at the intersection with the Mount Ojibway Trail from Daisy Farm. Boaters can dock at the Daisy Farm Campground and follow the Mount Ojibway Trail. Hikers starting at Rock Harbor can reach it by following the Greenstone Ridge Trail west from a number of different trail access points. Hikers starting at Windigo can follow the Greenstone Ridge Trail east for approximately 30 miles.

Isle Royale National Park

Last updated: March 15, 2021