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 San Luis Obispo County in Los Padres National Forest, with Lopez Lake to the south, and Pozo to the northeast. The adjacent Santa Lucia Wilderness Area lies within a historic nesting area of the endangered California Condor and Peregrine Falcon.
The first Hi Mountain Lookout was built and went into service in 1926 as a U.S. Forest Service Fire lookout. The original lookout was replaced and improved in 1961 for fire detection. In the late 1970s, the lookout was used by volunteers from Morro Coast Audubon Society to monitor nearby nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons, the beginning of the lookout's use for scientific research. However, it fell into disuse and was neglected and vandalized for some 15 years during the late 1970s and 1980s.
Rejuvination of the Lookout
In 1996, Steve Schubert of Morro Coast Audubon and Kevin Cooper of the USFS began a project to restore the lookout as a biological field station and public education center. With funding and help from Morro Coast Audubon Society, the USFS, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the Ventana Wildlife Society, and the National Park Service, the lookout was restored to a fully functioning biological research station and outreach center.