Vacant fire lookout getting a new look

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Volunteers work on renovating Spyglass Fire Lookout in Shoshone County.

A long vacant fire lookout in the upper reaches of the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River is getting a makeover.

Idaho Panhandle National Forests announced in a press release that the organization has partnered with Lutherhaven Ministries and the Forest Fire Lookout Association to renovate three historic structures at Spyglass Lookout.

The structures on Spyglass Peak include Spyglass lookout tower, a groundhouse where workers who staffed the lookout lived when the lookout was operational, and an outhouse.

The structures have been vacant for more than 20 years, says the press release, while weather and vandalism have taken a heavy toll on the buildings.

Spyglass peak lookout is 21 miles north of Kellogg with an elevation of 5,318 feet, according to Rex's Forest Fire Lookout page,, which is linked to online by the Forest Fire Lookout Association. The page provides some history about the tower, one of many in the Northwest. 

The first Spyglass lookout was constructed in 1922, with a 20-foot high platform tower and log cabin and a 50-foot high pole tower. The structures underwent renovations and were replaced through the years. The final structure was built in 1950 and was staffed through 1978.

In 2011 Lutherhaven Ministries approached Stephan Matz, then Idaho Panhandle NF’s archeologist, about renovating the structures.

Lutherhaven offered assistance with grant funding applications and youth volunteers from Shoshone Base Camp to perform the work.

Additional volunteers have come from the Forest Fire Lookout Association and local Forest Service employees. 

Through Lutherhaven’s efforts two major regional grants were awarded totaling more than $25,000. Additional funding was granted by the Forest Fire Lookout Association and combined with funding from the Forest Service, which enabled the groups to begin work on the site this year.

Lutherhaven Ministries owns Shoshone Base Camp, a Christian youth camp which operates Idaho Servant Adventures, a program that brings youth from around the country to North Idaho for public service projects. Steve Matz, now retired from the Forest Service, is leading volunteers from Shoshone Base Camp, the Forest Fire Lookout Association and Forest Service employees performing work on site.

Spyglass is a multi-year project with the goal of incorporating the site into the forest’s recreational cabin rental program, which generates funding for maintenance on-site.

Info: Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District’s Fernan office (208) 664-2318

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