Sisters Lookout briefly stood as an unusual structure
A remarkable structure was identified on early Deschutes National Forest maps. It was located just north of the present Sisters Ranger District office. The tower was constructed by the Forest Service in 1921. It was a large ponderosa pine tree that had the limbs removed and ladder steps constructed up the trunk of the tree. It was 105 feet high and had a small platform at the top of the tree.
It took a brave person to climb the primitive ladder to the top and sit on the small platform to look for forest fires. A man would climb to the top each morning to look over the surrounding country in search of fires during the summer. The steps were made of iron and shaped like an arch so that each pointed end could be drawn into the tree. The platform at the top had three sides enclosed and was approximately 3 feet by 3 feet.
The lookout was utilized by the Forest Service and the Oregon State Forestry Department to search for forest fires in the Sisters vicinity particularly after thunderstorms. Men staffing the lookout were not eager to climb up and down the ladder and often spent several hours sitting in the small platform at the top of the tree. If it became windy, the tree would sway several feet and led to a quick descent from the platform.
The pine tree lookout was a favorite landmark to observe for early travelers over the Santiam roadway. Many early lookouts in Central Oregon were trees on high points that had ladder steps spiked to the trunk and small platforms at the top of the tree. Actual constructed towers eventually replaced the primitive and unsafe tree lookouts. Certainly, the early tree lookouts would not meet OSHA standards of today. The Sisters lookout remained in use until 1926 when it began to show signs of rot and had outlived its usefulness. It was then cut down. Remarkably there are still some trees on high points of local forests that have remnants of the old tree lookouts, but it would be an ill-advised to attempt to climb them today.
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