Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fire Towers of the Appalachians

Recently I had the chance to pay a visit to an old friend, High Knob in Wise County, Virginia. Reaching an elevation of 4223 feet, High Knob was the first of many mountains in the Appalachians that I have come to know and love. High Knob is also special because at its peak is one of the few remaining fire tower lookouts of the region.
One of the legacies of the Appalachian mountains and the management of its National Forests are fire towers. Constructed during the 1930's and 40's mostly by the Civilian Conservation Corps (its many contributions to the Appalachians I hope to blog about in greater detail), the fire towers originally served the utilitarian purpose of giving forest managers an early means of fire detection. Only a handful of these towers remain and are recorded in the register of National Historic Lookouts. High Knob's tower was originally built by Company 2348 of the CCC in 1938-39. It's original structure was a 14'x14' wooden house. The current three-story structure was built by the Flatwoods Job Corps in 1978-79.
Because more advanced means of detecting forests fires are used today, most towers are vacant and used for recreational and historical purposes only. With their prominent locations, the towers still provide some of the best opportunities to view the mountains today.
Below are some photos I took from High Knob's vantage point looking west toward Powell Valley and Big Stone Gap.


cechols said...

There are several firetowers in Greene and Hawkins County here in TN that we used to climb as teens. Most of them were fenced off, or the roads leading to them had been long-abandoned. A few of my nearest-to-death moments have come during firetower runs.

But the experience of standing atop a ridge - 70 feet off the ground - overlooking a hundred miles of Appalachian valley is unparalelled. The spindly metal structure heaving gently with the mountaintop winds...incredible.

Great pics, man.

I have a few old b/w shots from high school on one of our impromptu firetower climbs. The pics are pretty much crap, but they might be worth a laugh. I haven't used this old site in years.

the Contrary Goddess said...

I don't know who you are Jeremy Peters, but High Knob, the fire tower, but especially Benge's Rock are old friends of mine. And long overdue for a visit. Thanks for the photos.

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