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Deer Ridge Lookout

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The Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), along with private contractors, were responsible for building many of these early lookouts. There were no roads at the time into these peaks. The lumber, cement and gravel required for construction of the towers were all brought in by mules and horses. It took one pack string working continuously for over a month to pack in the supplies and men to build each tower. All the lookouts had telephones in the early days. Hundreds of miles of single telephone wires were strung from trees enabling lookouts to report fires as well as severe weather conditions as most fires were caused by lightning strike. Only a few of these lookouts still exist. Most have been destroyed or torn down.

Rest in Peace:

  • Smith Peak
  • Roman Nose
  • Hall Mountain
  • Keno
  • Burton Peak
  • Red Top
  • Katka Peak


Dawson Lake is completely surrounded by dense stands of fir and pine. The shoreline on the east and west sides have trees and brush to the water’s edge and are mostly lined with low marshy areas and large, dense beds of water vegetation and lilypads.
The water, though pleasing, is slightly brownish in color.
Occasionally, codes/instructions are incorrect or outdated. NOTE: If you can't open the lock using the combination provided, and the Forest Service office is closed, because it's Saturday and well after normal business hours, you can simply remove it, the whole thing, the lock itself.
Deer Ridge lookout sits at 4,755 feet in the Purcell Mountains. A five-gallon bucket on a pulley or "goods lift" is available and apparently functional. However, we opted to carry our gear by hand up the lookout’s 52 wooden steps.
Ethan enjoys peace and quiet on a makeshift deck fashioned from a stack of square boards, which boards are used in the winter to create a "ceiling" midway up the tower to keep animals and undesirable elements out when the tower is "closed" for the season.
The 14' X 14' cabin has a wraparound catwalk which, on clear days, offers extraordinary, unobstructed views of the Moyie River Valley, the Selkirks Mountains and the Purcell mountain ranges of Northern Idaho, Canada and Montana.
Rachel reads from the Visitor's Log.
Public Display of Exhaustion.
Water is not available, guests should bring plenty of water for drinking, cooking and washing.
Ethan's rig.
Deer Ridge Lookout is one of few towers that one can drive to the base of.
Aircraft surveillance, modern roads and transportation eventually reduced the need for these towers and lookouts. Mother Nature and the lack of routine maintenance sadly have left many of these towers in a state of ruin, deemed unsafe for the public. Over time all but a few have been torn down and destroyed.
Rachel reads from the Visitor's Log.

Selected Entries From The Deer Ridge Visitor Log

Tanya, Scott, Trevor and Nate – 7/3/2012 (Spokane, WA)“(Ran out of Notebook Paper) Reader’s Note: it is written on the back of a cardboard spiral notebook cover. We arrived here on the third of July around 2:45 PM. The hike was a first for me as I’ve never hiked a mountain of any real magnitude or altitude. I got frustrated and tired on the three-mile hike. But it was all worth it! The view out here is amazing! There was snow the entire hike out here which made it more difficult – but we all made it. I look forward to celebrating my 29th birthday tomorrow with my amazing friends. What a view!”

Cindy and Brendan Wright – No Date (Seattle, WA)“We left the windows open all night and didn’t even need to zip up our sleeping bags! Wonderful place thank you USFS! PS: Suggest putting a towel in the crack on the right side of the door. Fly swatter works great if wasps get in. They go away around 730 PM. Suggest cooking dinner around the campfire at that time. :)”

The Bjorn Family – 08/15–08/17/2013 (Unknown)“We had a great stay but it’s worth noting we did sight probably the same black bear twice in the course of two days. Both times he (or she) was seen within a five or ten minute walk v north v from the trail 277 junction on trail 350. Good news is that this particular bear is of the pacifist variety and upon seeing the four of us loafing lazily along through the huckleberry patches, decided to high-tail-it from us as fast as possible. Aside from these two moments of SHEER-HEART-STOPPING-TERROR just kidding! we had a lovely family outing/escape from the real world. We quite literally saw no one else except for an encroaching deer.
“We promptly personified the deer in question, calling it, ‘our deer friend’ in spite of it’s aloof demeanor, but after getting fed up with it’s holier than thou attitude, we or should I say ‘I’ devised a scheme to put it in its place.
“So, I waited up until late around 11 PM when I knew the deer was still grazing below the tower. And then, bladder full, I launched a stream of urine down forty feet and scared the BUH-JEE-ZUHS out of the creature. I’m sure the deer knows to be more friendly to strangers and I think you’ll agree that sometimes you just gotta put an arrogant deer in its place. Keep this in mind, I had a very pleasant stay. The Bjorn Family.
“PS don’t let the jokes and the second paragraph discourage you from the first paragraph. We really did see a bear twice. Stay safe.”

Old Person #1 and #2 – 8/20-8/22/2013 (Nevada)“We made the trip from Nevada to spend a few nights on the rental lookouts in Northern Idaho. Got here about noon on the 20th. Had to stop on the way up to pick huckleberries. We had two nights of a full moon, which kept the tower fully illuminated. Thought we had cases of moon burn as a result. Just kidding! Wildlife included birds, squirrels, packrat (very noisy at night) but no moose, deer, elk or bears. We had two visitors (groups) come to visit. Three from Idaho well really two and their daughter from Florida, then two trucks with five from the Forest Service. They were familiarizing themselves to the local forest. Picked huckleberries yesterday down the road from the tower. Fun, until I got stung twice on the hand. Guess they wanted them all for themselves! Second set of wasp stings on this trip. This was a full stop on this trip. And a well kept tower.”

Tyler and Vanessa – 8/22-8/242013 (Tyler from MI, Vanessa from WI)“We arrived at Deer Ridge L.O. around 9pm, long after sunset. After hiking up the tower to observe our surroundings, we made dinner, chili and quinoa and had the pleasure of the meeting the weirdest deer mulie. She gave my boyfriend quite a fright when he went down to get more of our camping equipment in the dark and she decided to stand by the stairs. After a fitful night of sleep, we were awoken by two baldfaced hornets who managed to squeeze their way in. We had taken precautions to stuff the front door with a towel as suggested by previous entries, but these rascals got in anyway. These hornets will prove to be the biggest nuisance as they always try to get into the room and just follow you around. The fly swatter helps a lot.
“We decided to “hike” down the main road to look for huckleberries. We didn’t see too many huckleberries aside from those immediately beside our camp. We did however find an abundant amount of berries, we’re surprised no one has written about them in here. They are red in color, look like strawberry/raspberry hybrids and taste sweet, tart and seedy. We found a wild raspberry bush soo goood!!!!
“No wildlife big wildlife except for the mulie that were seen or heard. We saw a lot of chipmunks, squirrels, a few rabbits, two grey jays and a hawk so far. We close the trap door at night which may minimize the chance of seeing/hearing any animals at night. After a relaxing afternoon around the lookout we enjoyed our dinner overlooking the mountains on the sunset. We are currently cleaning up right now so the future guests can enjoy Deer Ridge Lookout just as much as we did.”

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