Clay Butte Lookout

Appoximately 1/2 mile north of US Route 212 and Forest Service Road 142


Clay Butte Lookout

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Clay Butte Lookout is eligible to the National Register of Historic Places as a state significant historic structure under Criteria A and C. It also reflects national trends manifested at the state level and to a lesser degree at the local level. The period of historical significance dates from 1941, the year construction of the access road was completed and quarrying of stone for the foundation was begun, to 1962-63, when an interpretive addition was built onto the base of the tower. The architectural design dates from the early 1930s and also reflects the evolution of fire lookout architecture in the early twentieth century . The lookout is eligible under Criterion A as an uncommon and well-preserved example of a Depression-era fire tower utilizing standard Forest Service plans. Road and foundation construction was begun by Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees in the fall 1941. Final construction of the lookout was carried out by the forest service after the CCC was disbanded in 1942. It was completed in October 1943. The lookout is representative of the history of fire detection and control practices within the U.S . Forest Service, specifically in the Shoshone National Forest in the Rocky Mountain Region (Region 2) from 1943 to 1962-63. It is the only fire lookout that remains standing in the Shoshone National Forest. The lookout is also related to the political and legislative events of the Roosevelt Administration's New Deal policies and programs, in particular, the development and implementation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as utilized by the U.S. Forest Service from 1933 to 1942. The CCC was disbanded in 1942, but the access road, rock quarrying for the lookout foundation, and overall planning and surveying for the lookout were carried out by CCC enrollees. Clay Butte Lookout also embodies the evolution of a distinctive architectural style (Criterion C), which in time became characterized by standardized plans as a result of the specific functional requirements of fire detection, and provisions for the reasonable comfort and housing of the personnel who staffed the often isolated facilities. Clay Butte Lookout incorporates many standard design features, such as the tower, observation cab, and living quarters. However, it represents a now uncommon battered wood enclosed tower with first-story garage and storage area, second-story living quarters, and third-story observation cab used solely for fire detection. The tower represents Forest Service standardized L-1 06 tower design with a BC-301 cab . The timber type style of architecture was preferred by the Forest Service for use in woodland country during the CCC era, and Clay Butte Lookout is sympathetic to such a high country setting. Although the majority of lookouts were constructed of steel for convenience and durability, it is possible that the scarcity of steel during World War II and the existence of a large labor force before the war influenced the decision of the Forest Service to use this design for Clay Butte Lookout. Hundreds of existing fire lookouts throughout the country were researched for this nomination, but only a few similar examples were found , all in California (Williams Hill, Calandra Lookout, Monterey County; Ball Mountain Lookout and Black Fox Lookout, Siskiyou County) . None retain the integrity of setting or physical integrity of Clay Butte Lookout. (

Update Log 

  • August 12, 2014: Added by Dave King