DUNMORE, W.Va. — They once served as the sentinels of the forest land, but today fire towers are a relic from a bygone area. However, the nostalgic towers are still interesting and in West Virginia you will soon be able to live the life of a forest ranger of the 1930’s.
West Virginia State Parks refurbished the old Thorny Mountain Fire Tower at Seneca State Forest and will soon rent it out for overnight stays.
“It’s pretty sparse,” said Forest Superintendent Jeff Layfield. “We have a couple of sleeping cots with mattresses and a table and chairs. As far as cooking facilities, we’ll provide a campfire location and grill on the ground level.”
The tower, built in 1935, was maintained through the years by the Division of Forestry. Two years ago it was acquired by State Parks with the thought of creating a unique overnight experience in the West Virginia mountains.
“The elevation is about 3445 feet and the tower itself is about 53 feet from ground level to the floor of the cabin,” Layfield said. “There’s 69 steps to get up there, so the height may not be for everybody, but I’m sure the sites will be enjoyed by everybody once they get to the top.”
The perch offers a breathtaking panoramic view of much of Pocahontas County and the Greenbrier Valley. The cost to stay in the tower will be $75 per night. However, a contest is underway to become the first guest to spend the night there on June 20th. Register for the contest here.
During the 1930’s and 40’s the United States forests had been largely over cut and an effort was launched to regrow them. Fire was a deadly setback to efforts to reforest mountains which had been stripped of their timber. So fire towers were the answer to early detection of a forest fire before it got too far out of control.
“The Thorny Mountain Fire Tower was erected in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps,” Layfield said. “The fire towers were used by spotters above the treeline to identify the smoke before the fire got too out of hand. As things progressed, use of airplanes for spotting fires and then satellites came into play and were much more cost effective. In the 1970’s and 80’s fire towers were phased out.”
However, a handful were preserved for nostalgia. Thorny Mountain was one of those saved over the years and now the only one in the eastern United States re-purposed as a glorified tree house for guests to experience what it must have been like to literally sleep among the stars.