Elevation: 4,538 feet
Prominence: 1,358 feet
Distance: Under a half mile
Elevation Gain: Around 300 feet
Elk Mountain (LAM Benchmark)
Former Washington Fire Lookouts
Elk Mountain is a tall prominent mountain in the St. Helens Tree Farm with a long history with 3 fire lookouts. At first known lookout person/camp was placed on the peak in 1929 in a vast territory of virgin timber. A trail to the summit had opened up some years before by the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company. The following year in 1930, a 57 foot tower of wood construction with a cab on top enclosed with glass was constructed. Some six miles of telephone line was constructed from the Kalama River, to the Elk Mountain temporary lookout, and on to Butler's Butte." Assistant Chief Warden V.O. Wallace supervised the erection of the Elk Mountain Lookout.
Six years later, in 1936, the 29th Annual Report of the Washington Forest Fire Association reported on the site. "We also constructed a tower on Elk Mountain in Section 32, Township 8, Range 4 East. This tower, built a decade ago of white fir, became dangerous, and the point lost much of it's effectiveness for this reason. A new tower of hewn cedar, sixty feet high was erected, the material being horse packed for some two and a half miles. The actual trail from the end of the road is approximately nine miles, but it was found possible to so re-locate the trail, with some additional swamping, as to make it possible for our tractor to pull a fully loaded wheeled trailer to Butler's Butte. This helped very materially in the problem of feeding men and horses as well as hauling equipment at an elevation of 4,650 feet.Ē
In December 1937, "The following story was picked up at the recent meeting of Western Forestry in Portland and is vouched for by C.S. Cowan, of the Washington Forest Fire Association: Jake Nordvik has been the lookout on Elk Mountain in Lewis county, Washington, for the past 11 years. In spite of the fact that he lost an eye and his right hand some years ago when a bunch of dynamite went haywire, he can still spot fires with the best of them and also use an axe and broadaxe. The last is evidenced from the fact that he hewed the timbers for his lookout tower. But the interesting part of the story is about Jake's two horses which pack supplies to the lookout. He calls them the mare and the colt in spite of the fact that they are 28 and 24 years old respectively. They have been traveling this trail ever since Jake manned the lookout, so they know their way. When it is necessary to send a stock of supplies up to the lookout, Mrs. Nordvik packs the mare and colt, escorts them the river a couple miles distant, heaves sticks and rocks at them until they get across and then returns to her home. The animals make their solitary way up to the lookout where Jake unpacks them, starts them back down the trail and then goes in and phones his wife to go open the gate in about three hours because the horses will be there. So far they have never failed to make the round trip unattended." (The Forest Log)
In 1940, "A new 29 foot ring-connected tower and ground house were constructed on Elk Mountain." (Annual Report of the Division of Forestry)
In 1942, the lookout site was used for a period of time by the Aircraft Warning Service. A document (shown below) shows the lookout got use but for some reason, the normal AWS documents donít show Elk as being used. Note the document says the lookout person was Jake Nordvik (see his story above).
Lookout was abandoned in 1968.
Left: back of image said: Elk Mountain Tower 1936, 66 feet high. All material hand hewn except cab siding. Lt. Webster & J.S. Goodyear
Roads go to within the last half mile of the lookout site but you will need a St. Helens Tree Farm Permit to be legal. The final trail to the summit is a decommissioned road that climbs steeply from a high parking lot. Views would be excellent (in good weather). Find the trail starting from behind the propane tanks.
Old tower built 1930. Lt. Webster & J.S. Goodyear
Note the snag is the same in both images, pictures taken at same time, likely in 1936.
On a 1942 Aircraft Warning Service list of lookout towers
Access in 2017
Map showing the Elk Mountain Trail from the Coweman CCC camp and Coweman Ranger Station area
State Division of Forestry asking AWS to pay for the costs of providing the fire lookout persons to staff the lookouts earlier in the season
Images on a nice day (taken by lostinwashington) of St. Helens, Adams and Rainier.
Some wood from the second structure (I think)
The 1940 structure (third one) debres
Summit of Elk Mountain
The 1940 29 foot ring-connected tower
Airplane part along the trail up to the summit
Tower was pushed over the cliff at the top