National Monument Association

Needles Rock Formation Temporarily Closed

August 20th, 2019 by Joseph David

PORTERVILLE, August 19, 2019 – The Needles rock formation, very popular with rock climbers, will be closed for a short duration while the charred staircase from the Needles Lookout is removed. The Needles Lookout, which burned to the ground on July 28, 2011, was located on a rock formation referred to as The Magician. The charred staircase leading to the lookout is still there and simply leads to open space, posing a significant hazard. Barricades, put in place to protect the public, have been repeatedly vandalized.

One of our Forest partners, HistoriCorps, will be removing the remains of the staircase this week. At the same time, fire personnel will be falling hazard trees along Forest Road No. 21S05, and Forest Trail No. 32E22. While this work is being done, the area will be temporarily closed to protect the recreating public from exposure to hazardous conditions and from the possibility of becoming injured while the work described above is being accomplished.

The lookout tower was constructed in 1937-38 by the Civilian Conservation Corps atop the rock formation at 8,245 feet. A Forest Service employee, stationed in the tower, was responsible for detecting fires and relaying radio messages to a dispatcher, who in turn sent firefighters and support equipment to extinguish the reported fire. The tower was utilized as this employee’s office as well as their home for the summer months while the lookout was on duty.

Extraordinary efforts have been made to rebuild the lookout tower by our partner, the Giant Sequoia National Monument Association. Unfortunately, the challenges with the engineering aspects of this project have so far precluded it from moving forward.

Needles Lookout overlooked the Kern River Drainage, Mt. Whitney, Olancha Peak, Farewell Gap, and Dome Rock. The Needles Lookout Tower was one of the most popular places to visit on the Western Divide Ranger District. “The loss of this historic landmark was significant,” stated Forest Supervisor Teresa Benson. “After years of work with partners trying to rebuild the tower, today’s safety regulations and cost of materials at such a remote site have so far kept it from being accomplished.”

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