NHLR Application

Compiled by Kathy Ball, Steve Schubert, Kevin Cooper, and Paul Andreano
Hi Mountain Lookout
Los Padres National Forest, California
Location of Lookout
(Lat/Long ) N: 35 DEG 15′36.1″ W: 120 DEG 25″30.5″
In the heart of the range of the reintroduced California condor sits Hi Mountain Lookout, a retired USFS fire lookout that has been restored back to life. Situated at 3198′ on the crest of the Santa Lucia Mountains, Hi Mountain is located in the Los Padres National Forest between Lopez Lake to the west and Pozo to the east, in San Luis Obispo County. Huffs’s Hole, a historic Condor and Peregrine Falcon nesting site, lies to our immediate south-west and is now a designated critical habitat area for California Condors. Standing on Hi Mountain, the view is a vast, magnificent piece of Condor country.
Agency/Owner
United States Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest
Date of Construction
The current Hi Mountain lookout was built in 1961 by the Forest Service. It replaced an earlier structure that had been built in 1926.
Description of the Structure
The official classification for this type of steel cab is a “CL-100″, most common to California although examples exist in Oregon and Washington. The upstairs is an all metal construction with a flat, steel roof. The cab dimensions are 14 feet by 14 feet, and building is about 18-20 feet high, with concrete masonry unit (cmu) block construction downstairs. The stairs are all metal with 15 steps, no landings, and a metal cat-walk that wraps around the cab. There is a 10 x 10 (cmu) cistern that collects water from the roof, and a potable water tank in the basement, that used have a hand pump upstairs. Originally there was a gas stove, gas lights, and wood stove for heat upstairs, and a gas refrigerator below. No major modifications to the building’s exterior have been made, save for the condor mural painted on the west wall.
Historical Significance
Fire Lookouts are historic objects of interest and those that remain standing are increasingly on the decline. Once over 8,000 fire lookouts dotted the nation’s mountain tops – over 600 in California alone. Today, less that 1,000 remain making them relics of the past. HI Mountain Lookout was established in 1926, earlier than most fire lookouts, whose construction heyday is considered to begin in the 1930’s with the advent of the Civilian Conservation Corps. As such, the site location can be considered historic.The current facility, constructed in 1961, is a type common in California, but uncommon nationwide. In less than 10 years, the lookout will be 50 years old and eligible for National Register of Historic Places nomination.
The lookout has not been staffed for its original purpose – as a detection location for fires – since the early 1970’s. It has seen limited use since then, but interestingly has been utilized as a wildlife observation post. In the mid -late 70’s it was used as a peregrine falcon monitoring site for the infamous Huff’s hole peregrines. The lookout sat in decay through most of the 80’s and 90’s, visited periodically by condor biologists hoping to locate their birds. Currently the lookout is utilized and managed through a partnership between the Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Morro Coast Audubon Society in collaboration with the Ventana Wilderness Society and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Biological Sciences.
Agency that will handle restoration and maintenance
After a decade of vandalism and neglect, restoration is underway on the lookout through the Hi Mountain Condor Lookout Project, a partnership previously mentioned. Hi Mountain Lookout is strategically perched along the historic migratory path of the California condor. The purpose of the project is to restore the lookout for adaptive reuse as an observation post to monitor movements of the endangered California condor population. Restoration is almost completed and once again, Hi Mountain Lookout is enlisted for active duty - now in the name of endangered species conservation and field ecology. It is now a functional field-research stations and interpretive center staffed by volunteers, students and condor biologists.
The lookout is now producing solar energy to power indoor lights, a water pump, and telemetry equipment. A sink, propane stove, refrigerator, and heater were recently installed as well as retro-fitted steel storm shutters and window screens. Most of the restoration has been focused on interior remodeling and rain-proofing. Fundraising events and grant writing activities have contributed and will continue to contribute, towards completing the restoration. The Hi Mountain Lookout Project has demonstrated a high degree of professionalism, passion, integrity and success in its desire to restore and care take this facility (see attached documents and articles). For more information log on to this website: http://www.condorlookout.org.