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WA State Fire Lookout Project

Photographer Kyle Johnson documents the few remaining Forest Service lookout posts in the Pacific Northwest's vast landscape

by Graham Hiemstra in Culture on 25 July 2013

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Few places garner the type of awe and admiration for the abundance of nature like the great Northwest. While its cities continue to produce an impressive crop of creativity, its wilderness remains in part uncharted but ever-enchanting. To keep the heavily wooded region alive and well, the US Forest Service began building wildfire lookout posts in the early 1930s and '40s—the number grew to nearly 600 during its peak and even gained Jack Kerouac as one of the lookouts on duty. Unfortunately, a good majority of those outposts have fallen into disrepair or have been shut down. To document the few remaining fire lookout towers—a number set at 92 when speaking about Washington State alone—Seattle-based Filson commissioned fellow Northwesterner Kyle Johnson to traverse Washington State and document what was left, and what was there was to see. The resulting photo essay—shot on medium format film—reveals the region's natural beauty through the oft-abandoned, quaint structures.

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Spanning the northwestern most contiguous state, from the main peaks of the Cascades to the eastern buttes, Johnson's images (which, at rare times, touch the realm of "Tumblr porn") are genuinely interesting, whether you're a rural history buff or an inner-city internetter. The series can be viewed in its entirety on the Filson blog. For a closer look, see the slideshow.

Images by Kyle Johnson

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