Would Ed Abbey approve?
The tower in question, the North Rim Lookout, was built in 1928 and moved to its current location by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. Mr. Abbey, who chronicled his disgust with the taming and paving of wildlands in numerous writings, including Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang, spent countless hours in the late 1960s and early 1970s atop the tower panning the landscape for telltale wisps of smoke.
In all four historic fire lookout towers in the park -- two on the North Rim, two on the South Rim -- recently were listed on the National Historic Lookout Register, which is a cooperative effort of the Forest Fire Lookout Association, the National Forestry Association, the National Woodland Owners Association, the U.S. Forest Service, state forestry departments and Department of Interior agencies. The purpose of the National Historic Lookout Register is to identify historic lookout towers that have played an important role in forest conservation.
These towers were an important part of the early fire-fighting efforts of Grand Canyon National Park. The national park's towers are part of a broad network of fire lookout towers and associated support buildings and structures in the American Southwest built in the late 19th through 20th centuries. Early park managers were extremely concerned about locating and extinguishing fires in the 1920s to the 1960s.
Today all four of these towers are inactive, which reflects the shift in fire control policy from one of immediate suppression of all fires to using an array of fire management actions including prescribed burns, wildland use fires, suppression, and incorporating fire as a natural ecosystem process to restore natural forest conditions.
The U.S. Forest Service first constructed wooden lookout platforms at Hopi Point and Grandview Point on the South Rim and on Bright Angel Point on the North Rim prior to the establishment of Grand Canyon National Park in 1919. The National Park Service improved this early lookout system by replacing the wooden platforms with steel frame towers at Bright Angel Point and Hopi Point, and by building the Signal Hill and Kanabownits towers. The Civilian Conservation Corps built tree towers on the North and South Rims in the mid-1930s. The National Park Service improved emergency communications by installing new phones and establishing a central dispatch at Grand Canyon Village during the 1920s. These lookouts were a part of a very efficient fire suppression program: fires rarely burned more than one hundred acres in the park each year until modern fire management guidelines were initiated.
The Kanabownitz tower, also on the North Rim was constructed in 1940 by the CCC in one of the last major projects they completed in the park. The Hopi tower was constructed near Hopi Point in 1927 and probably replaced an earlier tower there that was a wooden crow’s next and likely was the first fire tower in Arizona. The Signal Hill tower is near Pasture Wash on the South Rim was constructed in 1929.