Arctic Point Lookout
US 264, ID 25
2016 photo by Luke Channer

2016 photo by Luke Channer

Lookout Details

Registry Numbers US 264, ID 25 (view other lookouts in United States, Idaho)
Date Registered June 1, 1998
Nominated by Payette National Forest
Location Payette National Forest
Idaho County, Idaho
Coordinates N 45° 28.440' W 115° 02.309' (view using Google Maps)
N 45° 28' 26" W 115° 02' 19"
N 45.474000° W 115.038487°
Elevation 7,469 ft (2,277 m)
Built 1935
Administered by U.S. Forest Service
Cooperators Krassel Ranger District


Possibly the most remote active lookout in the continental United States, Arctic Point Fire Lookout has been retired to standby status. The 72’ Aermotor tower with metal 7’ x 7’ cab atop a 7,516' mountain in Idaho’s Payette National Forest was constructed in 1935. A Rocky Mountain-style log cabin ground house was added in 1939. Reached only by foot or horseback on an 18 mile trail, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

Payette National Forest - September 2020: 

The Forest Service used the lookout primarily for seasonal fire watch. However, during WWII, it was used to look for Japanese Balloon Bombs. These were hydrogen inflated balloons with incendiary devices attached to them. These balloons were dispersed from Japan between November 1944 and April 1945 with the hopes that atmospheric winds would carry them to US forests. Japan launched more than 9,000 of these weapons to cause wildfires. Since 1997, the lookout has remained unstaffed and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Following its construction in the 1930s, the complex has not experienced any significant alterations except the addition of a helipad. As the lookout has been unstaffed since 1997, Payette National Forest Heritage Program employees, with the help of contractors and volunteers, visit the lookout to accomplish light maintenance tasks. With the last trip out to the lookout taken in the early 2000s, this historic landmark needed significant stabilization measures to ensure the cabin’s preservation.
For the last five years, Payette National Forest Assistant Forest Archaeologist Morgan Zedalis and staff have been arduously working to plan a multi-year phased stabilization effort so the property can be preserved for another 90 years. This effort would only be accomplished through collaboration with the Forest’s Wilderness Program and with the significant help of packers, carpenters and volunteers.
After years of planning, in August, Zedalis and a team made up of staff, packers and stock, carpenters and volunteers made it out to the lookout, ready to stabilize and repair this historical landmark. The entire trip took 11 days and required Zedalis and her team to hike nearly 100 miles.
The main goal of this project was to successfully stabilize the cabin near the lookout tower. The cabin’s covered porch was in dire need of repair. The two posts which held up the covered porch were falling down and after big snow loads, the entire structure needed to be stabilized. In 2013, the cabin had also sustained damage from a bear. The bear, in search of carpenter ants, had ripped up the porch logs, posts and decking.
While doing the repairs on the building, the team adhered to Wilderness ethics and law. They used local native standing dead trees for the posts, sill logs and porch joists. The trees were felled with crosscut saws, debarked using draw knives, and were notched using axes and wood chisels - making use of traditional and historical methods and skills. The porch floor was dug out, lined with native granite rock, and porch floor joists were laid with rough sawn decking. A rotten bottom sill log on the cabin was replaced, along with the posts bearing the weight of the covered porch. The interior of the cabin had been overrun by packrats, requiring the entire inside of the building to be cleaned out. With the nearest water source being a quarter-mile away, the job was anything but easy. But, after days of hard work, the cabin was clean and rodent proof.
The team also reduced the fuel load around the cabin by bucking and dispersing down and dead trees in an effort toward wildfire prevention. In accordance with Leave No Trace principles, the team naturalized their work areas, to ensure the area looked as it did prior to their arrival.
Throughout the entire journey, Zedalis ensured that their efforts were not only in compliance with the Secretary of Interior's Standards for the cabin’s stabilization, but also the Wilderness Act. Zedalis worked closely with the Forest’s Wilderness manager and staff to ensure that the project was informed by their management perspectives. The Heritage Program plans on continuing their work on the cabin by replacing the cedar shakes on the roof, among other repairs, next year.
The needed stabilization work was completed on the lookout cabin, making the trip, the obstacles and the extensive work all worthwhile in protecting and preserving this historical landmark. Through the hard work of Payette National Forest Heritage Program employees, experienced carpenters, packers, stock and volunteers, this essential piece of history will be maintained for future generations.


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Luke Channer photo

Luke Channer photo

Observer's cabin (Luke Channer photo)

Observer's cabin (Luke Channer photo)

Observer's cabin (Luke Channer photo)

Observer's cabin (Luke Channer photo)

1936 - Emmit Routson with his pack train bringing the lookout tower parts to the remote area when it was first constructed

1936 - Emmit Routson with his pack train bringing the lookout tower parts to the remote area when it was first constructed - courtesy of Payette National Forest

Residence cabin during 2020 stabilization work

Residence cabin during 2020 stabilization work - courtesy of Payette National Forest


2020 - courtesy of Payette National Forest

Visit Reports

June 18, 2016: Luke Channer


Needs paint? No Response
Shutters OK? Yes
Condition of wood OK? Yes
Stairs OK? Yes
Glass intact? Yes
Good condition? Yes

Electronics and Enroachments

Are electronic sites enroaching on tower? No

Access and Signs

NHLR sign posted? No
Directions to tower signed? No


Staffed? No

Opportunities for Volunteer Support

Volunteers staffing opportunities? No Response
Volunteer maintenance opportunities? No Response

Other Comments

Comments Here is a summary of my trip to Arctic Point LO on Saturday. <br /> <br />This has been a trip in the making for a number of years for me. For many years, had given up trying to get to it since the typical way in is a back country flight in to Chamberlain basin and then a 15 mile hike. I met a jet boat pilot/Arctic Creek Lodge owner four years ago who told me about an old outfitter’s trail that he knew about starting at the Salmon river upstream from his lodge. Through hours of looking at GE, I could find all but the middle third of the trail. It looked to be 5miles with 5000 gain and was not on the FS maps. <br /> <br />Jim the jet boat pilot kindly offered me a ride along with another group with plans to pick me in 24 hours on his way back up river. My initial plans were to spend an extra day hiking to Rocky point but it burned in a lightning strike fire last summer. <br /> <br />So Friday evening I met Jim at Corn Creek where the main Salmon becomes wilderness along with my hiking buddy, Dan. After a 45 min ride down river, he dropped us off at the trailhead where we decided to camp for the night rather than push up the trail with our full packs. We felt an early start with light day packs would be the quickest. After a refreshingly cool night next to the river with a full moon shining down, we had a restful night. <br /> <br />At 7 AM the next morning, we started up. The trail was easy to follow with minimal undergrowth in the lower elevations. The first mile gained 1600 ft and by three hours we were up 3500 of the 5000 feet total. With underbrush dense due to higher moisture, we lost the trail and I didn’t have any waypoints from GE to orient to the trail. I had the lookout waypoint which was a big help. We bushwacked through old burn covered in logs and steep hills covered in brush the last 1000 feet. Finally found the trail half a mile from the lookout making our descent to come uncomplicated. <br /> <br />Made it up in 5.5 hours and only had an hour to enjoy the lookout with a 5PM pickup back down on the river. <br /> <br />The lookout is a 75 ft Aermotor with all the windows intact. FS made a feeble attempt to put wire mesh and logs blocking the stairs three feet high to prevent people from climbing the tower. Had a good laugh over that given how rarely this gets visited! I only went up partway given my fear of heights and the threatening clouds overhead. <br /> <br />At one point it was thought to be the most remote staffed lookout in the US but clearly has not been used in a number of years. There are several lookouts in Montana that are long 20+ mile hikes in to them but I think this is more remote due to poor access to the trailhead. <br /> <br />The ground quarter log cabin is in need of some work. The door and screen door were wide open as we approached. The front porch floor was falling apart and a recent tree bounced off the roof. Lots of tall dead trees surround the cabin which will destroy it in the future unless they are cleared. <br /> <br />An ice cold spring 1/4 mile away was refreshing after a long hike. Richard Homes told me about it from his experience hiking to Arctic Pt several years ago which I counted on during my water preparation for the hike. To top everything off, Dan’s phones started receiving text messages and we realized we had cell service!! It was nice to talk to our wives to let them know how our adventure was going. <br /> <br />Our trip down took three hours now that we knew where the trail was leading from the lookout. The roar of the jetboat filled the canyon with about half a mile to go as the five o’clock pickup time came. After some quick packing up, we were boated up river and made it home safely.