Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lake County Lookout Towers

Tower list:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tower Book

A current reference book is available via the menu at the right of the page.

The link below will download a PDF file with most of the information from the blog; tower information, maps, and photos of visited standing towers (73 I think). Updated 12-09-12.

Click here the PDF file size is approximately 38 MB.

Cambridge Lookout Tower

Another post here.

A tower that had slipped under the radar. The Cambridge tower is not on the databases that are passed around. A ladder tower which stands right in the City of Cambridge. The oldest survey notes (Cambridge LOT) are from 1976 but the tower looks to be a contemporary of the Nimrod or Smoky Hills towers. The lower ladder section was removed. This tower is noted as one of several towers that had a different original, often unrecorded, location.

The old city of Cambridge was located a mile and one half south of the present city, platted in 1856 by John Owens, a St. Paul newspaperman, and R. F. Slaughter, a St. Paul real estate developer; Owens retired from the newspaper in 1857 and began farming in North Branch Township. The post office was established in 1856. The new Cambridge was started when Jedediah Kimball of Maine built a boardinghouse in 1859, and most of the townsite had moved there by 1869, the year voters selected Cambridge, rather than Old Isanti, for the county seat; it was incorporated as a village February 26, 1876. A number of businesses began, including a woolen mill, roller mills, and a starch factory, and when the Great Northern Railway came through in 1899, there was increased development. Minnesota Place Names, A Geographical Encyclopedia, Warren Upham

Friday, October 26, 2012

Rusheba Lookout Tower

August 2011
August 2011

Erected in 1973 Rusheba is an 80 foot stairway tower. I believe this is the last tower erected by the DNR (excluding the towers that have been moved to state parks).
RUSHSEBA Township, organized in 1858, is in its second part an Ojibwe name, seba or sippi, meaning "a river." Both Rush Lake in Nessel Township and its outflowing Rush River are translated from the aboriginal name. Several species of bulrushes and other rushes are common throughout this state, one of which (Scirpus lacustris), abundant in the shallow borders of lakes, was "in common use among the Indians for making mats." Minnesota Place Names, A Geographical Encyclopedia, Warren Upham

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Roy Lake Fire Tower

The tower name is from the survey record noted below. The tower may have had a different name. UPDATE: Roy Lake is on a 1930s era DNR tower list.

Roy Lake is located along Minnesota Highway 200, west of Itasca State Park. The village hosted a state forest service station and ranger cabin. The station was part of the Bemidji Area offices and provided ranger coverage in northern White Earth State Forest. The station was moved to Bagley a few years ago.

Roy Lake Ranger Station
Mn Chapter FFLA

Survey notes for NGS point Roy Lake (about 5 miles SE of the village) from 1938 state; "Station is 53 feet S of an old log cabin at the end of an abandoned road. On highest point and center of a knoll about 50 feet across. A higher ridge runs N-and-S about 0.2 mile W of station. The fire tower formerly on this knoll has been removed and no sign of it remains." The notes also report; "The topography is such that an that an azimuth mark could not be placed at this station but 3 fire towers as listed are visible from the ground." Those three towers were Summit Lookout Tower, LaSalle Fire Tower and Anchor Hill Fire Tower. The Roy Lake (1839') site is higher than Summit (1601') and LaSalle (1677') and lower than Anchor Hill (1873'). No mention is made of Sugarbush Lookout  (lower) or Height of Land Lookout Tower (higher). Just wondering - was Sugarbush mistaken for Summit? An intervening hill may have blocked the view to Height of Land. The Anchor Hill tower seen in 1938 was likely the first tower at that site.

Roy Lake Fire Tower shows on the 1954 USGS Bemidji 1x2 map.

area fire towers

Roy Lake - Summit

Roy Lake - LaSalle

Roy Lake - Anchor Hill

Roy Lake - Sugarbush

Guessing that the tower was built in the 1920s, contemporary towers would be Schley and Cut Foot Sioux, and perhaps the Elbow and Pickerel towers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Itasca County Lookout Towers

Tower list:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cut Foot Sioux Tower

See February 2014 update

July 2013 update:
A 1931 map of the Grand Rapids area published by Fuller's Tackle Shops, Inc. shows this tower to have been located just south of now County 35 east of Highway 46. Approximately here. The map also notes it was a M.F.S. tower.

Mn Chapter FFLA
Photograph of View from Top of Cut Foot Tower 06-28-1922
The National Archives
Photograph of View from Cut Foot Tower 10-11-1922
The National Archives
Where was this tower located? The tower was built in 1922 and was 85 feet tall.

Cut Foot Sioux Lake is translated from its Ojibwe name, referring to a maimed Sioux or Dakota who was killed there in a battle in 1748 (Warren, History of the Ojibway People, MHS Collections 5: 184; Winchell, The Aborigines of Minnesota, 1911, p. 534). The outlet of this lake is the first stream found flowing into the north side of Lake Winnibigoshish, in the order from east to west. Next are Pigeon River and Third River, the last giving its name to a township. Minnesota Place Names, A Geographical Encyclopedia, Warren Upham

Monday, October 22, 2012

St. Croix West Area Fire Tower

A 100 foot stairway tower erected by the CCC in 1937. This state park tower is open to climb.

Views from the cab

Sign at the tower 

St. Croix State Park began in the 1930s as the St. Croix Recreational Demonstration Area, a Depression-era project. Lands in the "cutover," the area heavily logged by lumber companies and subsequently used as farmland, were purchased by the federal government, which planned to show that submarginal agricultural lands could be used for the benefit of the public. Workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps built the campgrounds, trails, and structures of the park. Most of their efforts remain in use today, with many of the buildings and structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The area was transferred to the state in 1943. - Minnesota Place Names, A Geographical Encyclopedia, Warren Upham 

Panorama view by cell phone camera

Sunday, October 21, 2012

When the towerman was a woman

The image is preserved for posterity; the rugged forest guard diligently watching for a sign of fire.

By Unknown or not provided (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But often as not, especially during and after Wold War II, the towerman was a women. Here are two newspaper articles about that very topic. First, western forests:

Brainerd Daily Dispatch 10/21/44

Second, a article from the Brainerd area missing Page 1:
Brainerd Daily Dispatch 8/28/70

And at St. Croix State Park, the woman in the tower is commemorated:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beltrami County Lookout Towers

With one from northern Clearwater County.

Tower list:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lookout Tower sites and the ARMER system

Lookouts were carefully located on high points making those sites very handy locations for the state emergency response (ARMER - Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response) radio towers. Plus, the state often owns the land.

ARMER sites at lookout or former lookout sites:

Argus Lookout
Bass Lake
Bemidji Fire Tower
Big Falls
Bois Forte
Borden Lake
Cascade Lake
Crane Lake
Cuba Hill LO
Devilfish LO
Draper LO
Elephant Lake
Hovland LO
Juggler Lake - (Pickerel site)
Lima Mountain
Little Mantrap
Maple Hill
Mirror Lake LO
Moose Lake Lookout
Mt. Maud
Pine Mountain
Sandy Lake
Vermilion Dam
White Pine Fire Tower
Wolf Lake

Borden Lake

Little Mantrap


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pinewood Fire Tower

Pinewood Fire Tower was located in the small village of Pinewood, about 11 miles west of Bemidji. In 2004 the tower was moved to the county fairgrounds near Bemidji. During the fair in August, visitors are welcome to climb the tower. The "Pinewood Ranger Station" is being built alongside the tower to serve as an interpretive forestry site.

June 2012 - Beltrami County Fairgrounds
June 2012

Pinewood was originally erected in 1934 and is an 80 foot stairway tower.

PINEWOOD, a logging community in Buzzle Township, section 33, was first settled in 1879 and named by the early settlers for the pine timber of the area; it had a hotel, a sawmill, a general store, a livery, and a station of the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad (Soo Line); its post office began in 1910.  Minnesota Place Names, A Geographical Encyclopedia, Warren Upham

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

67 KEE - old fire tower

67 KEE is a survey mark set in the "southwest footing of old fire tower," in northern Beltrami County. The marker is stamped 1967.

The 67 KEE marker in the southwest footing - October 2012

This tower stood at the intersection of Dick's Parkway Forest Road and Moose River Forest Road in Beltrami Island State Forest. The footings (all four) are about 100 feet north of the intersection along the west side of  Dick's Parkway Road. The state forest map and USGS call the intersection Gates Corner. Moose River Road to the east is closed because of continuing activity related to the North Minnie fire, which started just north of the Linder tower.

Dick's Parkway and Moose River Forest Roads 
This sign greets you as you enter the forest from the south

 UPDATE August 2014: Portion of county map show tower at this location.

Portion of 1951 MHD Beltrami County map

The map above provides the only map reference to this tower.


Available aerial photos from 1940 show two structures near the tower site but do not clearly show a tower. The survey notes refer to a "shack" nearby and there are remains of that.

A plumbing contraption from the shack?
Dick's Parkway Road travels through the Red Lake WMA as well as the forest. The area is remote and wild. Take a lunch and make sure your spare tire is inflated. Warroad is 42 miles north, Grygla is 18 miles west, and Fourtown, where you can get a beer, is 3 miles south.

Dick's Parkway Road - Red Lake WMA

No additional information is available. The better known Gates Corner is in Koochiching County.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cass and western Morrison County Lookout Towers

northern Cass County
southern Cass County, western Morrison County

Tower list:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Emily Lookout Tower

August 2011
Another favorite tower name; Emily is a 68 foot ladder tower built in 1929.

August 2011
August 2011

 Township was named from Emily Lake, one of its group of four lakes having feminine names, AnnaEmilyMary, and Ruth, but whether they were of one family, or what was the surname of any of them, has not been ascertained. Probably they were the daughters or wives of early lumbermen. The city of Emily, section 34, on the west shore of Lake Emily, was platted on November 22, 1905, by John and Amelia Lambert and incorporated on March 7, 1957; its post office began in 1900. 
Minnesota Place Names, A Geographical Encyclopedia, Warren Upham

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Osborne Fire FInder

The Osborne Fire Finder became the standard tool for locating fires from lookout towers. Sighting smoke through the apertures on either side provided a bearing from the tower to the smoke, essentially drawing a line from the tower to the smoke across a topographic map. Cross references from two or more towers aided in pin pointing smoke location. Experienced tower staff could also provide accurate distance figures between the tower and the smoke. In Minnesota, as well as other states, the 'towerman' was often a woman.

Towerman Carl Oyen "sighting a smoke" through Osborne Fire Finder on Skibo Lookout Tower
The National Archives

Raymond Thompson, fire guard at Brule tower. Sighting on fire with fire finder.
National Archives (c 1950)

An early alidade:

The Conservation Volunteer
Guardians of the Timberlands
November 1940

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Blackduck Lookout Tower

Blackduck is one of three remaining towers in Chippewa National Forest. It was erected in 1935 and is a 100 foot stairway tower. The floor of the cab has been removed as other towers in Chippewa National Forest have had done.

October 2010

October 2010

Not far from the tower is the Camp Rabideau CCC camp, an interesting step back in history.

Barracks building
Camp mess and bakery
Officer's quarters
BLACKDUCK, a city located on the border of Hines and Summit Townships, was incorporated as a village on May 7, 1901; the townsite was homesteaded by Nichola Jansen in 1900 and purchased that same year by Marcus D. Stoner, who surveyed and platted the townsite with the help of Cass Thompson, a sawmill owner in Langor Township, who purchased the first 21 lots and moved his mill into Blackduck. The post office was established in 1900. The main exports were lumber, livestock, produce, potatoes, and butter. It had a station of the Northern Pacific Railroad in section 18 of Hines Township. Minnesota Place Names, A Geographical Encyclopedia, Warren Upham