Wagner Butte fire lookout abandoned in the mid-'60s
I understand that there used to be a fire lookout on top of Wagner Butte. I took a hike up there last summer and the old foundation is still there. My question is: When was the lookout abandoned and why?
— J. Opdycke, Ashland
After a thorough dig through the Mail Tribune archives, we can say with confidence that the Rogue River National Forest stopped spying for forest fires from the lookout on Wagner Butte in 1964. In 1971, the forest service destroyed most of the lookout, aside from the chunks of foundation still up there today.
The lookout, which sat at an impressive 7,140 feet, was built in 1923, eight years after the forest service starting using the peak for locating forest fires. In 1961, it was rebuilt, but the station didn't last much longer.
The lookout, like hundreds of others after the mid-20th century, was abandoned in 1964 as the forest service's fire detection program was taken over chiefly by plane. The forest service abandoned its lookout on Mount Ashland in 1942 and destroyed the nearby Anderson Butte lookout in 1965.
Now, the forest service's two primary fire lookouts in Jackson County are Soda Mountain lookout, at 6,091 feet, and Dutchman Peak lookout, at 7,418 feet.
And yes, it was simply the Rogue River National Forest until 2004, when the Rogue River and Siskiyou National Forests were combined to make present-day Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
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