Johnny George Mountain
Okanogan Highlands | Kettle River Range
Colville Indian Reservation
Location: 47.911162, -118.443782
Summit Elevation: 4,090′
Lookout Type: 100′ steel Aermotor tower
Site Established: 1938
Current Structure Built: 1938
Date Visited: 6/28/19
Johnny George is a long drive on Colville Reservation back roads and is gated to prevent access, but the 100′ Aermotor tower is a really impressive sight to see and the views from the base of Johnny George are still beautiful!
Photos from 2019.
This 100′ steel Aermotor tower, built in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is the only tower ever on the site, and is staffed sporadically during the summer. 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.
In 1943 the Colville Examiner reported that many teachers were staffing fire lookouts across the Colville National Forest, including Mr. and Mrs. Walter Peterson from Malott on Johnny George.
A plaque at nearby Keller Butte commemorates fire lookout Ramona Peone, who spent 40+ years manning both Johnny George and Keller Butte lookouts. Her obituary from 2015 in the Grand Coulee Star talks of the details of her fire lookout life.
In 2019, three months after my visit, Johnny George was threatened and protected in the 45,000 acre Williams Flats fire, which started in August due to lightning.
From just north of Keller, turn right on Silver Creek Road and follow it 14 miles to an intersection with Ninemile-Hellgate Road. There is a sign for Johnny George. Follow Ninemile-Hellgate Road roughly 17 miles to a Y-intersection that turns up to the lookout. Again, there is a sign pointing the way. The road was in good condition when I visited but be aware that roads in this area are clay and notoriously impassable and slick after rain.
Note: To visit Colville Confederated Tribal land, non-tribal members must now purchase a recreation permit for $80/annually. Passes may be purchased online.