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Watchman Lookout Station No. 68
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Nearest city: Fort Klamath, Oregon
Coordinates: 42°56′34.63″N 122°10′20.71″W / 42.9429528°N 122.1724194°W / 42.9429528; -122.1724194
Built/Founded: 1932[1]
Architect: National Park Service, Merel Sager[2]
Architectural style(s): National Park Service rustic[3]
Governing body: National Park Service
MPS: Crater Lake National Park MRA[4]
Added to NRHP: December 1, 1988[1]
NRHP Reference#: 88002626[1]

The Watchman Lookout Station No. 68 is one of two fire lookout towers in Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. For many years, National Park Service personnel used the lookout to watch for wildfires during the summer months. It is also a popular hiking destination because it offers an excellent view of Crater Lake and the surrounding area. The building is unusual because it serves the dual purpose of fire lookout and museum. The Watchman Lookout Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



The Watchman Lookout Station is located 8,025 feet above sea level on Watchman Peak, a high point on the western rim above Crater Lake.[5][6] Watchman Peak was named by William Gladstone Steel in 1886 when he brought a survey team to Crater Lake to measure its depth.[7] The lookout structure (designated "Building 168") was constructed in 1932, and served the dual purpose of fire lookout and trail museum. The lookout location was selected by Merel S. Sager of the National Park Service Landscape Division.[5]

Early detection and prompt suppression of forest fires was a primary responsibility of the National Park Service. Lookouts, like the one on Watchman Peak, were located on heights overlooking great expanses of forest area. The Watchman tower was part of the fire detection network for Crater Lake National Park which included a number of National Park Service, United States Forest Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs lookouts. A trained observer, usually a park ranger, manned the lookout and kept in contact with the fire dispatcher at the park headquarters on short-wave radio. During the 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps also provided observers. The National Park Service manned the Watchman Lookout Station during fire season until 1974 and intermittently since then.[5]

Today, the Watchman Lookout Station has significant interpretive value. Since the lookout was built, there has been a major philosophical change in how forest managers deal with wildfires. The Watchman tower provides visitors the opportunity to experience the essential elements of 1930’s era fire lookout. The accessibility of the site, the unobstructed view on all sides, and the use of native materials that blend the structure into the surrounding landscape combine to make the Watchman Lookout Station a unique and historically significant structure.[5] As a result, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.[8]


Fire Lookout on Watchman Peak

The lookout is a simple two-story blockhouse design. The bottom floor is constructed with stone masonry walls. It originally houses a small exhibit room. The exhibit area was unusual for a working fire lookout. However, because it was readily accessibility to visitors, the Watchman lookout provided an excellent opportunity for the National Park Service to educate the public about the park and its fire prevention program. The first floor also has a restroom and storage area. An eight-foot glass window provides a spectacular view of Crater Lake.[5]

The second floor is a four-sided observation room entirely enclosed in glass with a catwalk around the outside. The first floor was built into the hill-top so the building’s footprint is somewhat irregular. Therefore, the lookout’s second story is supported by a steel frame rather than resting entirely on the first floor structure. The lookout’s native stone and log construction helps blend the structure into its mountain top environment. There is also a stone parapet in front of building that overlooks Crater Lake, 1,849 feet below. [5][6]

Watchman trail

The trail to Watchman Lookout Station is approximately three-quarters of a mile up a modest grade. To reach the trailhead from Crater Lake National Park's Rim Village, take Rim Drive north 4 miles to a well marked pull-off parking area. The trail begins about 100 yards south of the parking area. The trail is normally open from mid-July through October.[7]


  1. ^ a b c Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (2007-07-16). "Oregon National Register List". Retrieved 2008-03-29.  
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 2008-09-11.  
  3. ^ "Watchman Lookout Station No. 68", Archiplanet,, 5 December 2006.
  4. ^ National Park Service. "National Register Information System". Retrieved 2008-03-29.  
  5. ^ a b c d e f Greene, Linda W., "Summary of Important Structures" Historic Resource Study Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, Denver Service Center, National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior, Denver, Colorado, June 1984.
  6. ^ a b Tweed, William C., Laura E. Soulliere, and Henry G. Law, "Maturity Achieved: 1927–1932", Rustic Architecture: 1916 – 1942, National Park Service, Western Regional Office, San Francisco, California, February 1977.
  7. ^ a b Sullivan, William L.,"The Watchman," Hiking Oregon's History, Navillus Press, Eugene, Oregon: 2000.
  8. ^ "Watchman Lookout Station No. 68", National Register of Historic Places,, 12 March 2008.

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