McCart Lookout, built in 1939 and named for longtime district employee Bill McCart, is a classic example of the L-4 series developed in 1929 by Forest Service engineer Clyde Fickes. The prefabricated wood-frame house was packed in by mules, and native timber was cut on site to support it. The lookout, which provided living and work space, was designed for simple assembly with a hammer, screwdriver, and level “by a couple of handymen who could read.” Sliding glass windows and a two-foot catwalk surrounding the cab allowed the watchman to be on constant alert for forest fires, a major concern for the early Forest Service. Lack of radio technology and isolation in this vast unroaded wilderness required a complex telephone communications network. Intact segments of phone line insulators are still visible in the trees between McCart and the East Fork Guard Station .Vintage equipment inside the lookout includes an Osburne fire finder, used to pinpoint fire locations, and a hand-cranked telephone. Even though lookouts provided a panoramic view of the surrounding forest, like this one of the Anaconda Pintlar Wilderness, by 1960 most fire detection was accomplished by aerial surveillance. McCart provided a vital communication link, however, and remained in service until 1984. Carefully restored in the early 1990s, the lookout exemplifies innovative use of precut and prefabricated buildings.



Bitterroot National Forest, Sula, Montana ~ Public