Lookouts on the Tahoe National Forest

Grouse Ridge Lookout 1964

Since the early 1900’s, lookouts have been a part of the western landscape, serving as a platform for early forest observers watching for tell-tale wisps of smoke of possible wildfires. In the Tahoe National Forest, more than 20 lookouts were built over the years. As communication systems improved, the number of staffed lookouts has decreased. Now there are three that provide oversight during the summer months - Saddleback to the north, Babbit Peak on the east, and Duncan Peak in the south.

Some of the lookouts, in various states of disrepair, are not in use and some have been dismantled. Others, however, are being restored. Calpine Lookout, on the northeast edge of the forest, has been fully restored and is available as a rental through the National Reservation System. Sardine Lookout, also on the eastern edge of the forest, and Grouse Ridge Lookout, centrally located, are currently undergoing restoration.

Grouse Ridge, One of the Oldest Lookouts

Grouse Ridge Lookout is one of the oldest lookouts. It was built in 1923 and was last used in the 1970’s (photo, above, from 1964). Winter storms, summer sun and vandals have taken their toll on the structure, however. The interior has been gutted, cabinets torn out, and windows broken. On the exterior, the siding, foundation and roof are all in need of substantial repair work. The outhouse also needs extensive renovation.

As part of the Forest Fire Lookout Association (FFLA), a non-profit to preserve historic lookouts, the Grouse Ridge Restoration Team is restoring the lookout. Since it is eligible for the National Historic Register, restoration will need to follow historic guidelines, while bringing the facility up to current building and safety codes. A group of volunteers, contractors, and others developed the plans and work schedule to rehab the lookout. It's expected that the work will take at least two years to complete

Even though all labor will be donated, the materials will cost about $25,000. A fundraising effort is underway to solicit donations. All donations are tax deductible. Those donating $50 will receive a photo of the lookout surrounded by swirling stars. Those donating $250 or more will receive at least one night’s stay at the lookout. Donors will be identified through either plaques at the site, at a Nevada County community venue, and/or in a notebook at the lookout.

Grouse Ridge Lookout memories, by Frank M. Meggers, the Camptonville District Ranger, 1927-1945

Updated 1/30/12