1908: The trail to the summit was constructed in the fall of 1908.
1911: A lookout was first established on the summit of the butte.
July 10, 1912: " Private owners of timber land, in co-operation with the forestry service of the United States, have arranged for a sentinel on Black Butte this summer. This peak, 6500 feet high, overlooks a vast territory in northwestern Crook County where there is much fine timber. A forestry telephone line runs by the foot of it, and a wire has been strung by the forestry people from the top of the butte to connect with this, giving direct communication with the local office and nearby ranger stations. At the foot of the butte a camp is established, and each day, a watcher ascends to the top and with powerful telescope surveys the surrounding territory for indication of fire. Wherever smoke is observed in the timber, a report is made over the phone to the nearby ranger station to investigate. The expense of maintaining the sentinel is not great and is expected that much good will result in the way of preventing fires."(The Bend Bulletin)
July 24, 1912: " Carl J. Carlson, the sentinel on Black Butte reported a fire in the Gist country and it was put out before getting any headway."(The Bend Bulletin)
August 20, 1913: " Lookout William Usher has been busy recently packing to the top of Black Butte material for a cabin. The lumber was hauled to the foot of the butte and he packed it up with horses over the trail."(The Bend Bulletin)
July 8, 1914:" Forest guard L. E. Troyer is busy straightening the walls of the Black Butte lookout cabin, preparatory to siding it with shingles. The cabin, which was started last summer, will be completed within the near future. Mr. Troyer has also cleaned out the trail and repaired the telephone line to the top of Black Butte. Ranger Vincent has recommended the withdrawal of a new station to be called Riverside Ranger Station, near the head of the Metolius River. It is proposed to make this the base of supplies for the Black Butte lookout man, to be used in connection with the cabin on the top of the butte." (The Bend Bulletin)
July 21, 1915: "Mr. Golden has taken a cook stove and his camp outfit to his cabin at the summit of Black Butte, where he will stay during the fire season. Already he has reported several fires." (The Bend Bulletin - The Deschutes Ranger)
September 25, 1918: "Wm. Dryden, who has charge of the lookout station at Black Butte all summer, has been called to Portland to fill a responsible position in connection with the ship manufacturing. Mr. Dryden was called away sooner than the forest service anticipated letting him go. The forest service will miss the valuable services of Mr. Dryden very much." (The Bend Bulletin)
July 2, 1921: "The second woman fire lookout to be employed on the Deschutes national forest took up her official duties this morning when Mrs. Robert Merrill of Portland was stationed at Black butte, 35 miles from Bend. Mrs. Merrill is a stenographer in the district forester's office in Portland." (Morning Oregonian)
July 7, 1921: "The second woman lookout on the Deschutes national forest took up her duties on Friday, when Mrs. Robert Merrill, of Portland, made her first observations from the Black butte station, Supervisor H.L. Plumb reported. She is accompanied by her husband and son. Mrs. Merrill has been a stenographer in the Portland district office for a number of years, and is being transferred to the lookout service during the summer months." (The Bend Bulletin)
1921: The lookout was closed for the season on September 11th.
September 25, 1921: "Mrs. Gertrude L. Merrill, forest clerk in the office of operation of the United States forest service, has just returned from Black Butte, at the head of the Metolius river on the Deschutes national forest, where she has been serving as lookout during the forest fire season. Mrs. Merrill has been in the forest service in a clerical capacity since 1912. Last spring physicians ordered her husband to go somewhere into the mountains for the summer. Such was his condition that it was not safe for him to go alone, so Mrs. Merrill, her intimate knowledge of the forest service making her valuable in the capacity of lookout, obtained a transfer to the Deschutes forest and a station on Black Butte. With Mrs. Merrill and her husband was also her small son. The Merrills had but few visitors during the summer. Black Butte being somewhat off the route usually taken by vacationists." (The Oregon Daily Journal)
1922: " A forest fire of considerable proportions threatened Shevlin park and the Tumalo Fish hatchery this afternoon, it was reported to the United States forest office by Pearl Lynes, hatchery superintendent, and also by the Black Butte lookout. Fire at the north end of Green ridge in the Metolius country, which broke out last night, was believed to be under control today, the lookout at Black Butte being unable to see any smoke from the fire area." ( source lost)
1922: The construction of the new lookout house was still under way on the 3rd of October.
June 22, 1922: "Fred McKinney went up on Black Butte as a forest man to watch for fire last Thursday." (The Bend Bulletin)
June 5, 1923: " A new direct line from Sisters to Black Butte lookout station and to Allingham ranger station are now in service and a better connection is now available from Sisters through to the Warm Springs Indian reservation."(The Bend Bulletin)
August 18, 1923: " Tales of forest fires visible in the distance far below as small points of light; vivid description of myriads of stars blazing overhead; stories of lonely hours spent in her glass encased house 6,425 feet above sea level – with such tales and stories, and description did Mrs. Hazel McKinney, lookout stationed on Black Butte in the Deschutes national forest near Sisters, entertain visitors who made the long climb to the peak of the ancient volcanic cone from Camp Sherman. It is said that the philosopher seeks the solitude, and in the case of Mrs. McKinney, who has been doing her bit protecting the forest wealth from fires during the past two summers, it can be said that solitude makes the philosopher. Mrs. McKinney is not alone on her mountain peak – a peak which could well be termed the sentinel of Central Oregon – for this summer she accompanied by her two daughters, Clarice and Katherine. Another companion, a black collie named “snip,” is the first to greet the tourists and vacationists as they climb over the lava rock and red cinders to the lookout station, built this year. Fires in the timber which are marked so conspicuously by a cloud of smoke during the day do not stand out prominently at night, unless they are crown fires, according to Mrs. McKinney. Crown fires, especially when fanned by a strong wind, race through the tops of trees – rivers of fire which meander as the wind shifts. Mrs. McKinney started to tell her visitors about the wonder and mystery of the starlit heavens visible on clear nights from her station, but permitted her daughter, Clarice, to conclude the narration by telling about the “falling stars” that shoot across the heavens, at times breaking into fragments as they dash across the wide expanse of sky visible from the peak. Trains creeping from Bend across the desert toward the Deschutes canyon are frequently visible from Black Butte, and some nights the headlights of trains break through the darkness, appearing from the butte as a faint ray of light, apparently motionless in the great distance. Although the Metolius river issues from the earth as a great stream at the very foot of Black Butte, there is no water at the top of the mountain – one of the most perfect volcanic cones in Central Oregon. Mrs. McKinney uses snow water at present. Later in the summer small kegs of water will be carried on horseback up the four and a half miles of trail by forest service men. A cistern was placed near the lookout station this year and a large quantity of snow was packed into it in June. This snow has not all melted. When water is carried on horses to the peak, Mrs. McKinney uses only 20 gallons a week. Over 400 visitors have scaled Black butte since 1916, according to the list of names in the forest service registration book which all visitors sign. Approximately 140 sightseers have followed the twisting trail to the summit this summer. The tourists rent horses at the Hansen ranch, near Camp Sherman., and the climb to the lookout station can be made in two and a half hours. When made in the early morning, the climb is pleasant. The trail winds through the pine trees until an elevation of about 5,500 feet is reached, and then the pines give place to stunted white fir.(The Bend Bulletin)
July 6, 1925: " A remarkable instance showing the efficiency of the forest service fire patrol organization occurred in the Metolius country yesterday. A camper on Canyon Creek was breaking camp and cleaning up the site preparatory to leaving. After burning various trash he threw onto the fire the boughs on which he had made his bed. The heavy smoke which rose from the spot was immediately noticed by the lookout on Black Butte, and before the rest of the boughs were burned the fireman from Allingham ranger station, two miles away, had arrived on the scene. A telephone call from Black Butte, giving the location of the supposed forest fire, had done the trick." (The Bend Bulletin)
August 1, 1925: " Demonstrating a new advantage of living in glass houses, Mrs. Hazel McKinney, forest service lookout stationed on Black Butte, dominate peak in the Metolius country, last night at 1:35 a.m. spotted a forest fire from her bed in the standard lookout station, more than 6,000 feet above sea level. In commenting on the achievement of Mrs. McKinney last night, W. O. Harriman, assistant supervisor of the Deschutes national forest, explained that standard lookout towers are so constructed that fire observers can see all parts of their field, windows virtually encircling the structure. This method, Harriman further explains, differs markedly from the system of early days, when lookouts were stationed at springs or watering places, making several trips to the summit of their respective peaks daily to hunt for fires. The blaze sighted by Mrs. McKinney from her bed last night is in privately owned timber in the Green Ridge country, north of Black Butte."(The Bend Bulletin)
September 8, 1925:" Seventy bolts of lightning were seen to dart from clouds late Saturday evening and night and strike in the timber in the north end of the Deschutes forest. Although Mrs. McKinney counted 70 direct hits before she grew tired watching the electrical display from her isolated lookout station on the butte, a comparatively small number of forest fires were started by the storm." (The Bend Bulletin)
November 1925: "Hazel McKinney, lookout on Black Butte, was relieved from duty Oct. 1st. Hazel says she does not mind the long seasons, but the nights are pretty chilly and kindling wood is scarce. This is Mrs. McKinney's fourth season as lookout on Black Butte." (Six Twenty-Six)
August 5, 1926: " After darkness had settled over the forest, at 9 o’clock the Black Butte lookout notified the central platting agent in Bend that flames were visible in the timber near the Allingham Ranger Station. From Bend went instruction to the Allingham station to send a fire guard to investigate the reported fire. When the guard arrived at the place where the fire was located, it was found that campers had built a huge bonfire and were having a general good time in its light and warmth. They had failed to notice that their permit specified that a fire only large enough for cooking and for providing a reasonable amount of heat should be built. No arrests were made, but campers learned that a bonfire can disturb the rest of a far reaching fire control organization." (The Bend Bulletin)
October 1926: "As of October this station had reported only three false alarms for the season." (Six Twenty-Six)
1927: Mrs. Hazel McKinney, of Sisters will be in charge of the Black Butte station again this year after missing the previous year.
June 22, 1927: " Shortly before midnight last night an electrical storm passed over the forest leaving one fire in its wake. This morning the fire was reported by Mrs. McKinney, who saw the bolt flash from a cloud into timber about five miles northwest of Suttle Lake. Setting the pointer of the fire finder on the place where the bolt struck and estimating the distance by counting the seconds from the time the bolt was seen until the thunder was heard, Mrs. McKinney easily picked up the smoke before the fire had time to spread into the timber."(The Bend Bulletin)
June 8, 1928: " Fred McNeil, associate editor of the Oregon Journal, is back on the forest for his second season. McNeil requested a move from Maiden Peak to Black Butte. After being relieved from duty last fall, he took part in the search for Guy Perry and Henry Cramer, The Dalles boys who were lost on the glaciers of the Three Sisters, McNeil, an experienced mountaineer, was in the field several days hunting the missing youths, at a time when a blizzard swept over the Cascades." (The Bend Bulletin)
July 5, 1928: " Kenneth Steinhauer of McGlynn, Oregon, celebrated the July 4 holiday by climbing Black Butte on his motorcycle, according to word received in Bend this morning from Fred McNeil, lookout. Black Butte has an elevation of 6400 feet and, so far as is known, this is the first successful attempt to climb it on motorcycle. H. Leo Henne and Fred Bauer, both of Eugene, attempted the climb but were only able to get within half a mile of the top, according to word from McNeil." (The Bend Bulletin)
May 26, 1929: "With another forest fire reported Friday afternoon from the Sisters district, Deschutes national forest officials are making plans to place a lookout on Black butte, overlooking the Metolius basin." (Statesman Journal)
1930: On July 1st Richard Ayers was scheduled to take up the lookout duties
September 24, 1930: " Should a spiral road be built to the top of the aged volcano, one of the most perfect cones in the west, the route, it is believed, will be unusually popular with motorists. From the top of the butte, now visited yearly by scores of people who take the horse trail, can be secured a view unparalleled in Oregon—a view of the towering Cascades to the west, the Blue mountains to the east, the remarkable Smith rock formation to the north and the Paulina range in the south. Black butte is a volcanic cone set apart from the main Cascade range, but sufficiently close to the mountains to provide an excellent view. From the top of the butte, it is possible to look “down” on the McKenzie pass summit. Because of the nature of the Black butte formation, a vast cind4er cone, cost of road construction would not be great, it is believed. The road would be similar to that built to the top of Pilot butte, near Bend, but on a much greater scale. The road would spiral around Black butte three or four times. A spiral road up the lofty butte would prove one of the major attractions of the Santiam highway, now under construction." (The Bend Bulletin)
1931: Leo Henries, Black Butte is the first lookout to be manned for the 1931 fire season.
1932: This station has been designated as a precipitation recording point and will be supplied with a rain gauge.
September 9, 1933: " Construction on the lofty summit of Black Butte, 6,403 foot high volcanic cone overlooking the Sisters and Metolius River area, of a lookout tower, 60 or 80 feet in height, has been recommended to the regional office of the forest service. Should the project receive approval, it will be built with public works money, but probably not until next year. Decision to construct a high tower on the butte was reached when profiling work definitely revealed that such a tower would greatly reduce “blind areas” in the vicinity of the cone, especially to the northwest and east. Snap judgments of various officials were to the effect that a high tower would prove of little value in opening up the blind areas, but profile work by A. G. Angell and Howard Phelps shows that a 60 or 80 foot tower will make the Black Butte station one of the most important in the forest." (The Bend Bulletin)
January 30, 1934: "First persons to set foot on top of Black butte this year were L.V. Hunter and C.E. Hein of the forest service and Joe Hansen. They recently ascended the old volcanic cone to take panoramic pictures needed for fire detection planning work. This, so far as is known, is the first time that anyone has ever climbed Black butte in January without the aid of skis or snowshoes. On the east side of the butte, three foot drifts were found and on top 10 inches of snow was encountered." (The Bend Bulletin)
July 9, 1934: " Claude Post, carpentry foreman, and his crew of six men arrived at Black Butte Friday to start construction of the tallest lookout tower in the Deschutes National Forest. It will require 300 pack horse loads to take the material to the top of Black Butte for this 85-foot wooden tower. At times as many as 18 horses will be used in one string carrying the supplies over the four miles of trail to the top of Black Butte where Post and his crew will camp until the lookout tower is completed. The six men who will work on this tower are Gordon Nast, Douglas Larson, Barney Hockett, Ed Goodman, Charles Stirbor and Norman Leslie." (Odell Lake CCC camp newsletter)
August 1934: "Announcement has been recently made that an 87-foot tower will be erected on Black Butte, several miles north of the town of Sisters. For many years this mountain has been used as a lookout by the Deschutes-Jefferson Fire Patrol Association." (The Forest Log)
August 24, 1934: " The Deschutes National Forest’s highest lookout tower, an 83-foot wooden structure on top of lofty Black Butte in the Sisters District, has been completed and was placed in use today. On top of the high tower, overlooking the Metolius basin and the eastern Cascades, is E. T. Holbrook, lookout. The first report received from the new tower today indicated that smoke was appearing in the Fly Creek burn of July 29. Work on the Black Butte lookout was started about a month ago, with C. H. Post in charge. All of the material required for the high tower had to be taken up the old volcanic cone on pack strings or hauled by teams. The distance to the top from the Metolius River road is about four miles. The new tower replaces the lookout point which served the forest service for many years, but was not ideal because of an extensive “blind area.” The 83-foot tower practically eliminates all the blind area. On top of the tower is a glass enclosed lookout house, its interior painted green and its exterior silver gray." (The Bend Bulletin)
August 25, 1934: "The Deschutes national forest's highest lookout tower, an 83-foot wooden structure on top of lofty Black butte, overlooking the eastern Cascades and the Metolius river country, was placed in use today. Every piece of material used in the high tower was taken to the top of the aged volcanic cone on packstrings. Work on the tower was started a month ago, with C.H. Post of the forest service in charge. E.T. Holbrook is lookout." (The Morning Oregonian)
1934: The 83-foot treated timber ring connected tower with a 7x7 cab costs totaled $3,024.46.
October 8, 1936: "Phillip Gould, lookout fireman on Black butte, is completing the repair work on the living quarters on the butte this week. The cabin was raised and new supports put in place, a new floor was laid and the inside was relined. Gould and the only other lookout on duty now, David Zumwalt, on Broken Top, are to come down this week and will be put on fall maintenance work. The weather is so good at present no lookout will be necessary." (The Bend Bulletin)
October 15, 1936: In a letter to the Regional Forester in response to a questionnaire on a tower construction review: Black Butte Tower, 83 feet high was put up in 1934. This tower is the ring connected type, with a 7x7 cage with catwalk. Labor used on this tower was E.C.W. averaging about 6 enrolled men and one foreman. Man hours figures given here include considerable time spent in getting the material on the ground and in getting the site ready. There was no record kept of man hours on the different jobs, only a record of the total man hours. Effective man hours, 1491.
September 17, 1937: "Floyd Curtis, Black butte lookout, is leaving Wednesday for the University of Idaho. Dick Compton who has been lookout fireman on Trout Creek butte, will be moved to Black butte to act as lookout during hunting season." (The Bend Bulletin)
July 24, 1940: " Malcolm Foster, lookout, reports that after the storm was over, and after dark, the guy wires and lightning arresters at the base of the tower were aglow." (The Bend Bulletin)
1941: In mid-August Calvin Boyd was transferred from lookout duty to the road crew.
August 13, 1941: "A shifting about of forest service employees in this district was carried out last week. Allen Madsen from Fly lake to Black butte lookout." (The Bend Bulletin)
September 10, 1946: "Pedee -- Mr. and Mrs. P. M. Ritner visited relatives and friends here this week. They are stationed at the Black Butte lookout station in Deschutes national forest." (The Oregon Statesman)
September 10, 1952: " A forest utilization road 6.4 miles in length and 20 feet wide is to be constructed to within 1,000 feet of the timbered top of Black Butte. Actually, the survey for the road has been completed to the top of the 6,415 foot volcanic butte. However, construction in connection with the timber sale will end at the 5,400 foot level, high on the northeast face of the lofty cone. When marked trees are removed, the road will serve the Sisters district as an administrative route, and, it is expected, will be available for tourists and sightseers. The access road is to be completed not later than June 30, 1954. Work will probably be started this fall." (The Bend Bulletin)
1952: Carl DeMoy closed the lookout for the season after the first of November. This being the longest fire season in the history of the lookout.
May 7, 1953: " The opening of the Black Butte lookout station early this week marked the official start of the 1953 fire season, nine days ahead of schedule. Carl DeMoy, veteran Black Butte lookout trudged the four miles to the top on Wednesday to open the station for the summer and fall months." (The Bend Bulletin)
May 4, 1954: " Carl DeMoy took his old post on lofty Black butte today as arid weather continued." (The Bend Bulletin)
May 12, 1958: "Wassenberg and Brooks were making a fuel test in the cargo plane, prior to a planned Pacific flight and delivery of the plane to Wilbur Kelsey, in Manila. He was buying the plane, under a conditional contract, from Leo M. Aimonetto, of Newcastle, Wyo. Minutes after the plane crashed and burst into flames, it was spotted by Carl DeMoy, Forest Service lookout on Black Butte, at the head of the Metolius river. He reported a heavy black smoke, apparently from oil, and rescue units were quickly organized in Madras and Sisters. Also, the CAA had been alerted from the plane prior to the crash landing." (The Bend Bulletin)
1979: The log cabin at the west end of the summit was constructed. This building has been used as living quarters for the lookout
September 21, 1981: "The blaze in the Black Butte area of Oregon's Deschutes National Forest scorched 190 acres. A force of 538 firefighters battled the flames, with help from 82,000 gallons of retardent dropped from airplanes. Forestry spokesman Chip Cartwright said the fire started Thursday from a lightning strike and for a time threatened the lookout tower and historical cabins on top of the 6,415-foot high cinder cone. He said the flames were stopped 'inches' from the tower, which had been evacuated, before the fire was pushed back away from the structure and the cabins, which are used by the Forest Service." (Lodi News-Sentinel - California)
1990: The 83-foot tower was condemned. The lookout duties were returned to the older Cupola. Because of the limited view from the Cupola, the observer was required to patrol the butte on foot.
July 6, 1994: " A bid of $224,850 was accepted by the Forest Service from 2G Construction. The contract includes the 65-foot wood tower, the lookout cab and a communication building." (Bend Bulletin)
May 25, 1995: " On May 25th the new 65-foot lookout tower was flown in sections by a Sikorsky Skycrane, and assembled at the summit of the Butte." (Bend Bulletin)
2001: On December 9th a report to the Sisters Ranger Station indicated that one of the towers on the butte was not visible. Two days later the lookout person and her husband snowshoed to the summit and confirmed that the old 83-foot tower had collapsed.
November 30, 2016: "Fuels specialists on the Sisters Ranger District are scheduled to burn the remains of the Black Butte Lookout Ground House this week. Smoke will be visible from the top of Black Butte while burning takes place. Depending on weather conditions, the remnants of the structure could be burned Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. The structure was once used by staff lookouts at Black Butte for sleeping and cooking, but fell into disrepair and was condemned in 2014. Black Butte Lookout is staffed every summer during fire season and the lookouts now sleep and cook in a yurt at the base of the tower." (The Nugget Newspaper)
The NGS Data Sheet
DESCRIBED BY US GEOLOGICAL SURVEY 1958 LOCATED ABOUT 21 MI SE. OF MT. JEFFERSON, 8.6 MI NW. OF JCT. OF U.S. HWYS. 126 AND 20 AT WEST EDGE OF SISTERS, 5 MI ESE. OF EAST END OF SUTTLE LAKE. ON HIGHEST PART OF TOP OF VERY PROMINENT MTN. CONTACT USFS AT SISTERS FOR INFORMATION ON TRAIL TO LOT.
REACHED BY HELICOPTER.
STATION MARK--STANDARD TABLET STAMPED---BLACK BUTTE 2 1958---, IN CONCRETE POST PROJECTING 1 FT. ABOVE GROUND CENTERED UNDER LOT.