Blue Mountains | Blue Mountains
Umatilla National Forest
Location: 46.203016, -117.575216
Summit Elevation: 5,658′
Lookout Type: 82′ steel Aermotor tower
Site Established: 1933(?)
Current Structure Built: 1933
Date Visited: 7/02/18, 12/30/2019
The Clearwater lookout in the beautiful Blue Mountains of southeast Washington makes a fabulous destination, especially in winter. Though the tower is closed to the public, the single story, wood frame cabin at its base, constructed in 1935, is available for year-round rental through the Umatilla National Forest.
Photos from 2018 and winter 2019.
The current MC-39 steel tower was built in 1933 by a Civilian Conservation Corps camp who spent several months in the Asotin District. The tower is 90′ tall according to a Umatilla National Forest Inventory, 94′ tall according to Ray Kresek, and 82′ tall according to other sources. No matter the exact height, it’s a darn cool steel tower!
The single story cabin at the base of the lookout was built two years later in 1935, also by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the cabin is available for nighly rentals through the Umatilla National Forest.
In August of 2021, the Clearwater Lookout, thanks to its height, was used as a temporary repeater site on the Lick Creek (Dry Gulch) fire in southeast Washington. The tower remains available for emergencies.
Aermotor steel towers were built by the Aermotor Company of Chicago, IL, founded in 1888. In the 1920s, a few steel towers started showing up in the Pacific Northwest and in the 1930s, several more were built predominantly east of the Cascades.
The winter route.
Distance (RT): 13.4 miles*
Elevation Gain: 1,550′
Summit Elevation: 5,658′
*It’s possible to drive right to the summit of Clearwater lookout during most of the year except winter.
In winter, Clearwater makes a fabulous ski or snowmobile destination from the Rose Spring Sno Park approximately 17 miles south of Pomeroy, Washington.
From the Sno Park, Clearwater is a straight-forward 6.5 mile ski along National Forest Road 40 straight to the lookout. While there are some ups and downs, nothing is steep and the road is groomed for both snowmobiles and cross country skis, making it a great beginner/intermediate outing, so long as you’re up for the mileage.
2019 Winter ski trip to Clearwater.
After visiting Clearwater and the Blue Mountains in the summer of 2018, I returned in the winter of 2019 with my newly adopted cattle dog Hudson and my Altai Hok skis for a fantastic 5-day ski tour. I booked two nights at the Clearwater lookout cabin and another two nights at the nearby Wenatchee Guard Station. To this day, the trip remains one of my favorites and Clearwater is a fantastic winter destination!
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the simple cabin, which is equipped with a propane refrigerator, heater, and cook stove.
From Pomeroy, head south on 15th Street 16 miles to the Forest Boundary where the road turns to gravel. Continue 7 miles to the Clearwater lookout. The roads are generally in good condition for all vehicles.