The Harney Peak historic photos provide a glimpse of the early days of the Harney Peak Fire Lookout Tower that was positioned upon the highest peak in the Black Hills to watch for forest fires.
The summit of Harney Peak was used from 1911 until 1967 as a fire lookout. There was no fire lookout tower, or any structure the first few years, just a table with an alidade set upon Harney Peak.
The first lookout building was constructed on Harney Peak in 1920, and then expanded in 1921. This early fire lookout which offered shelter from the weather and windows on all sides, was used until the stone fire tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
Fire lookout towers, such as the the one in the Harney Peak historic photos, are used for the early detection of forest fires. Lookouts scan the hills with binoculars. Smoke rising from the Ponderosa pine trees below can be spotted from the tower and fire suppression crews dispatched to specific coordinates.
The Harney Peak historic photos show the Fire Lookout Tower constructed of stone that is typically associated with Harney Peak, and was completed in 1938. It provided comfortable living quarter, including running water, electricity and heat.
The shell of the historic Harney Peak Fire Lookout Tower remains at the summit and is open for those who trek the 3.5 miles to the granite high point. The Harney Peak Fire Lookout Tower provides hikers an excellent view of the surrounding Black Hills National Forest.
All the building materials, including stone, cement and sand were hauled up the three mile trail by horses, mules and man. Two-wheeled carts were constructed and pulled by horse, carrying about 20 stones to the summit on each trip.
The Harney Peak Fire Lookout Tower and related structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Harney Peak Historic Photos
Historic photos of the Harney Peak Fire Lookout Tower by the Black Hills National Forest and the National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places Program.