15 July 2022

A fire lookout station as an overnight campsite

This Wyoming fire lookout station is available to the public for overnight camping.  
Perched atop a forested mountain, the historic Sheep Mountain Fire Lookout offers a unique recreation experience -- one of few fire lookouts in the region available for overnight rental. Constructed in 1950 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) atop Sheep Mountain at an elevation of 9,600 feet, the lookout was historically occupied as a fire lookout until the early 1970s. The lookout is available for rental from June 15 through October 20; however, access to the facility may be limited depending on snow accumulation. Guests are advised to call ahead to confirm access to the facility. Limited amenities are provided; please be prepared to pack in supplies and gear for a comfortable stay. Visitors are advised that this facility has always been a popular destination for recreational visitors to come and enjoy the views and historical nature of the area, therefore, solitude from other forest users may not be an option at this facility.
The facilities are "rustic" -
This facility is primitive in nature. While a single vault toilet and one set of bunk beds are available, there is no running water, indoor plumbing or electricity. Basically, what is available are four sturdy walls, sound roof, no neighbors and commanding views from the lower quadrant of the Bighorn Mountains all the way out to South Dakota's forests. It is recommended that guests bring all their water and accommodations needed for overnight camping. This is a "pack-it-in, pack-it-out" facility; guests will need to carry out all trash and clean the facility prior to leaving.
But the view is...

... spectacular.  And not mentioned in the official blurb is that this location in rural Wyoming should offer a relatively dark sky and the opportunity for outstanding stargazing.

These photos were sent to me by my neighbor Eric, who is aware of my interest in the stonework of the Civilian Constuction Corps.  To that end, he added this photo of the base of the fire tower:

Very characteristic of the CCC program, utilizing local material - not brick or concrete blocks.  The mortar is rather thick compared to the more snugly-nested stones seen at some other sites, perhaps reflecting the youth and inexperience of the participants, or the absence of a local expert.  I note this structure was completed in 1950, well after the bulk of CCC projects and near the end of the program.  


  1. Very cool location for action in a novel.

    1. Make it a "locked room" variant, with the victim stabbed to death and no human footprints in the snow as far as you can see...

  2. Visited this very similar tower many times. Sadly burned last summer. Edward Abbey spent a season on Harkness: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Harkness_Fire_Lookout

  3. There's a fascinating video game called Firewatch that is set in a Wyoming fire station lookout. It's a thoughtful drama on responsibility and escapism worth checking out even if you don't like most video games.

  4. From the Forest Fire Lookout Association:

    "Fire Lookouts are available as rentals in many states and provide a unique getaway experience. "

    Links to lots of places in the western states at the link below.


  5. I am told that Jack Kerouac spent a summer writing in a fire lookout above Ross Lake. https://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/desolation-peak-trail.htm

    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desolation_Angels_(novel)

  6. You threw me with the 1950 date, I don't remember hearing of post WWII activity before. My first wife's father was part of the CCC project building Quabbin Reservoir to supply Boston with drinking water. At almost 40 square miles moving four towns plus farms and homesteads was a big job. All the buildings and trees had to go.
    His job was moving cemeteries and outlying grave sites. The CCC guys got to go home for a weekend once a month... except the grave movers, they were quarantined for the duration.
    Like Stan I'm in awe of the stonework. Just the wall along Going-to-the-Sun Road is mind boggling.

    1. The CCC ended in 1943, when Congress ended funding for it. Funds were appropriated to dismantle the camps and /or transfer them to state agencies. The project cited above was likely completed by a CCC organization that had been transferred to administration by Wyoming.

      When World War II started, lawmakers realized it needed the members of the Corps to enter the military. Congress never actually abolished the CCC, but it quit funding the program. On July 2, 1942, it approved $8 million to liquidate it.

      From Records of the Civilian Conservation Corps [CCC]: (https://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/035.html)
      Abolished: By Labor-Federal Security Appropriation Act (56 Stat. 569), July 2, 1942, providing for liquidation by June 30, 1943. Liquidation appropriations continued through June 30, 1948.
      CCC workers were paid $30/month (about $1,000 today), of which $25 was deducted and sent home.

      Other interesting sites:
      CCC Camp List by state:



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